Archive for the 'Site Visit Reports' Category

(Belated) Dispatch from the road: Saskatoon and Winnipeg site visits

May 8, 2007

Limited internet access and a bout of influenza has kept me away from this blog for a while, but in the meantime I completed site visits of PLEA in Saskatoon and CLEA in Winnipeg. With these visits I have now visited every Canadian province and all the major sole-purpose PLE providers in Canada outside of the territories.

The Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan, headquartered in Saskatoon, began in 1980 in the basement of the Saskatoon Public Library. In the 27 years since, it has continued to serve Saskatchewan (current population: about 988,000) as the province’s only sole-purpose public legal education provider. At the core of PLEA’s programming are plain language publications and youth and schools programming including curricular materials. Other ongoing programs include regular newspaper articles, a speakers bureau, and intermediary training. A website provides access to the organization’s publications and information about its various programs.

The Community Legal Education Association, incorporated in Winnipeg in 1984, is Manitoba’s sole-purpose PLE organization. CLEA’s biggest program is a lawyer-staffed legal hotline and lawyer referral service. Additional core programming includes plain language publications, intermediary training, a provincial legal services directory, a speakers bureau, and a website. Based in what is surely Canada’s most under-appreciated major city, CLEA is unique among sole-purpose PLE providers in that it receives substantial annual financial support from its province’s law society.

Dispatch from the end of the road: Toronto site visits

February 19, 2007

Last week, spent in Toronto, ended my five-week PLE research tour of eastern Canada. Ontario, and Toronto in particular, is a very special place for public legal education in Canada. Not only is Ontario home to the unique and famous community legal clinic system, and not only are each of those clinics mandated to provide public legal education and engage in community development, but one of those clinics is devoted entirely to initiating and supporting PLE projects in the province.

That clinic, Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO), is one of the most well-staffed sole-purpose PLEI organizations in Canada, employing multiple full-time staff lawyers and plain language editors. CLEO’s core service is the production and distribution of plain language publications, but it also maintains CLEONet (a huge clearinghouse website of Ontario PLE materials from many organizations) and has just launched a program to provide PLE publications and audio in six languages other than English and French (the languages that CLEO has previously focused on). Operating since 1974 (and previously called the Toronto Community Law Program), CLEO is also one of the oldest independent PLE organizations in Canada.

Important too, though, is the substantial PLEI work being done by community legal clinics throughout Ontario. “Specialty” clinics, such as Justice for Children and Youth and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, produce their own PLEI materials and send their staff attorneys into Ontario communities to deliver workshops and classes on legal issues. “General” clinics, which serve a specified geographic community, also spend significant percentages (as much as 15%) of staff time on PLE activities.

Also based in Toronto is the staff of the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), a very young PLE—or rather “justice education”—provider. OJEN, formed in 2002 at the initiation of Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry and partially modeled on the Law Courts Education Society of BC, works with regional committees of lawyers, judges, educators, and other community representatives to build understanding of the justice system. At the core of OJEN’s programming is its Courtrooms and Classrooms program, which facilitates learning and exchange between schools and the courts.

Even this lengthy description doesn’t exhaust all I saw in Toronto, though. Public legal education seems to have earned a lasting and constituent place in the justice and legal services environment of Ontario.

Dispatch from the road: Montréal site visit and Ottawa interviews

February 11, 2007

I began this week in Montréal, QC, with a two-day visit to Éducaloi. Québec’s only sole-purpose PLEI organization, Éducaloi serves a province of over 7.5 million people—82% Francophone—and where the official language is French. Éducaloi is also the youngest provincial sole-purpose PLEI organization in Canada (founded in 1999–2000). At the core of the organization’s programming is its gigantic website, which provides constantly-updated plain-language legal information on a broad range of topics. Beyond the website, Éducaloi works on a number of special projects, including plain language publications. youth camps and schools programming, and an interesting project to replicate the parliamentary committee process as a way for school-aged students to democratically modify their schools’ student codes. Éducaloi is also notable for its special attention to branding and image, and for the success it has had in attracting media attention.

For the second half of the week, I was in Ottawa, ON. With the exception of a new, law school-based project called the Ontario Public Legal Education Initiative and a lone Ottawa-based staff member of the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), there is no sole-purpose PLEI presence here. Most of my time, thus, has been spent talking with those involved in PLEI funding and policy work in the federal government and with those involved in Canadian PLEI who have ended up in Ottawa for one reason or another.

Dispatch from the road: whirlwind Charlottetown and Fredericton site visits

February 4, 2007

This past week has seen me visit Charlottetown, PE, and Fredericton, NB. The Community Legal Information Association of PEI in Charlottetown offers a number of standard PLE programs, including a legal information line, lawyer referral service, plain language publications, and legal classes and workshops, and has a significant focus on community development and close collaboration with others in the small and tightly-knit province it serves. In Charlottetown I also stumbled upon a related and exciting organization, the Cooper Institute, which coordinates highly interactive, low-income-friendly grassroots training academies—with PLE components—that develop community capacity for bringing social policy changes.

In Fredericton, I spent most of my time visiting the Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick. For a small PLE organization, PLEIS-NB produces an amazing number of plain language print and video materials and over the years has developed a focus on family violence issues. PLEIS also offers workshops in schools and for the general public, provides a family law information line, and manages a parenting education program for recently separated parents.

Both PLEIS (pronounced like “please”) and CLIA enjoy free (but tiny) office space provided in government office buildings by their respective provincial governments, and both operate in provinces with comparatively limited legal aid.

Dispatch from the road: Halifax site visits wind down

January 27, 2007

I have been in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the past week, visiting a number of groups that provide PLEI here, including the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia (LISNS), this province’s only sole-purpose PLEI organization. At the core of LISNS’s programming is a legal information and referral telephone line, a 24-hour “dial-a-law” recorded legal info hotline, and plain language publications. The Society is also a fundraising innovator among modern PLEI organizations in Canada, as it has recently tasked its board of directors with finding substantial, grassroots funding for the group.

Beyond LISNS, Halifax boasts a number of other groups that also offer significant public and community legal education programming, most notably Dalhousie Legal Aid Services and the Halifax Coalition Against Poverty.

Dispatch from the road: the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador

January 24, 2007

Last week I was in St. John’s, NL, visiting the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. This twenty-four-year-old sole-purpose PLE organization has been behind several of the most innovative PLEI programs. Today, it provides a range of services, with plain language publications, a legal information line and lawyer referral service, and a resource-rich website at the core. Other current programs include workshops and presentations offered throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as youth justice camps for kids during summers. In 2006, PLIAN had a revenue of about $337,000 to serve a province of about 510,000 people.

Many thanks to the PLIAN staff for a productive and delightful visit.

Field Trip: Legal Studies Program at the Edmonton Apartment Association trade show

October 23, 2006

A “No Vacancy” sign was the first indication that I was successfully navigating my way through a west Edmonton hotel and conference centre to the 2006 Edmonton Apartment Association (EAA) trade show. EAA is an organization for landlords, land owners, and property managers, and so I guess “No Vacancy” is a good and reassuring thing to its membership. As a perpetual tenant, I’d not normally be found at a landlords’ conference, but last Tuesday I was going to their trade show to watch the Legal Studies Program (LSP) in action, hawking its “Laws for Landlords and Tenants in Alberta” project.

Lesley Conley fields questions from EAA showgoers
LSP booth at EAA 2006 trade show

“Hawking” may not be the most appropriate word, because LSP’s was the only non-governmental booth at the show that was not selling something. LSP was nestled in between an appliance vendor and a locksmith, tucked near the corner of a floor dominated as you would expect by carpet stores, property listing websites, security companies, a business called “Trauma Scene Bio Services,” and so on. Yet “dominated,” too, might not be the best word, since the LSP booth commanded at least as much traffic as the most popular of the for-profit offerings. Indeed, when I first arrived it was the throng of people surrounding two nametagged women and a small table that turned out to be LSP’s spot. The two women, LSP staffers Lesley Conley and Kirsten Wurmann, confirmed that the high traffic at my arrival was not completely anomalous. During just my hour-long visit, about 30 people visited the booth, most taking some of the free materials and many chatting with Lesley and Kirsten about both general and specific questions. Most of the questions had to do with tenant disputes, but some frequent queries—about the law as to bedbugs, for example—were new and surprising and aren’t yet covered on the LSP’s Laws for Landlords in Alberta website.

I did not stay for the afternoon trade show seminar on bedbugs. As I was walking out, I did hear Edmonton Oilers President Patrick LaForge try a joke and get absolutely no response from the handful of attendees who had gathered for his keynote address. The LSP might, in fact, have been drawing a bigger crowd at that moment.

Following the EAA trade show, LSP travelled to Calgary (without me) for another apartment association trade show.