Walking the talk: Community over Competition
Partnering with Student Legal Assistance (SLA)
Student Legal Assistance (SLA) is a registered charitable organization that is staffed primarily by law students at the University of Calgary. Under the guidance of an Executive Director and a team of advising lawyers, student caseworkers provide access to justice for low-income Albertans.
Every year, over 100 law students volunteer their time providing civil, criminal, and family law help to individuals across Alberta who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. SLA’s work improves the functioning of the Courts by providing clients with representation and ensuring they have the legal information necessary to make sound decisions inside and outside of the courtroom.
Each year in July, SLA hosts a charity golf tournament at Sirocco Golf Club. Funds raised through the tournament support their ongoing operations and expenses. We were very happy to sign up to be a sponsor for this year’s tournament, but that’s not where our participation ended.
One area of legal assistance the organization provides help with is their residential tenancy dispute resolution.
Their residential tenancy dispute resolution service offers landlords and tenants an alternative to arguing their dispute in court. Using an RTDRS can allow a person to resolve their tenancy issue faster and more affordably than if filing an application at Provincial Court.
The matter is then heard before a Tenancy Dispute Officer who is authorized to make binding decisions on claims up to $50,000. This decision of the Tenancy Dispute Officer is binding on all parties.
The SLA had taken on a case of a First Nations woman who – after 20 years of peaceful residency – was facing an eviction notice. The appeal could not be made without a transcript. In Alberta, many court transcription services have been subsumed by the province, whereas RTDRS hearings have not. In this case, the SLA’s client could not afford the usual transcription fees, so the transcription team at Veritext was happy to step up and transcribe the one hour of audio files the students had recorded for their client – at no charge – as our way of supporting access to justice for all.
We were thrilled to hear that just in time for Truth and Reconciliation Day, the appeal was granted for their client and the woman and her family are now allowed to stay in their home.
Christy Pratt, RCR, RPR, CLR and Regional Vice President, Canada has long had an interest in aboriginal litigation. special interest in Aboriginal rights and title cases and Charter challenge cases.
She has reported several landmark trials (including Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia and Conseil-scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique v. British Columbia (Education)), and she is currently reporting the Cambie Surgeries Corp. v. British Columbia (Medical Services Commission) trial before the Honourable Mr. Justice Steeves.
This special interest in Aboriginal rights was why we stepped up to support the SLA with their transcription needs. Access to justice for all people, no matter where they live, who they are, or what their circumstances are, lies at the heart of our view of the future of legal technology and the ability to provide legal services to all people no matter where they live.