By the end of 2018 there were 734 children and youth in care in the South Vancouver Island area according to Ministry of Children and Families statistics. Of those, 468 were Indigenous, and a number were in the Cowichan Valley.
That’s part of the reason officials are gathering at 301-238 Government St. in Duncan Friday morning at 11 a.m. to officially open a new branch of the Parents Legal Centre (PLC).
The centre helps parents when a child is at risk of being removed from their family home or has been removed by social workers because of safety concerns.
“The PLC is our response to the crisis levels of children in care in B.C., particularly Indigenous children. Duncan was identified as a location where we could potentially make an impact, by assisting parents in finding ways to keep their families together, whenever possible,” said Gail Murray, vice president of Indigenous Services at the Legal Services Society.
At the centre clients can get the support of a team of legal professionals including but not limited to a legal assistant, advocate and a lawyer. They can get information and advice and learn their options for resolving child protection issues as early in the process as possible and clients can also get legal advice and representation at things like court hearings, mediation, family case planning and more.
“We’re very happy to be able to offer these valuable services in Duncan,” said Murray. “We are continuing to build relationships with community members here, and are strongly motivated to contribute to improve access to justice in B.C. for Indigenous peoples.”
While the centre’s services are available to anyone who is eligible, it does focus on Indigenous communities because 63 per cent of the children in care in B.C. are Indigenous.
The PLC project is run by the Legal Services Society and funded by the Ministry of Attorney General, was tested out in Vancouver and Surrey first but has since expanded to Campbell River, Kamloops, Prince George, Smithers, Victoria, Williams Lake and Terrace. Duncan is also part of the expansion.
The Duncan PLC will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m.