The Law Foundation is proud of its longstanding funding for programs and projects that support immigrants and refugees in British Columbia. Various programs funded by the Law Foundation have immigrants and refugees as clients; however, some have a particular focus in that work.
For more than 20 years, the Law Foundation has funded MOSAIC to provide services not covered by legal aid to immigrants and refugees who cannot afford a lawyer in the areas of immigration or poverty law. The MOSAIC program is a valuable legal service for clients often unfamiliar with the Canadian legal system, have limited English language skills, and face other barriers that restrict their access to justice. The legal advocate at MOSAIC, Miriam Dell’Orto, has worked with the program for 11 years and last year provided legal advice, information and representation services for approximately 600 cases.
West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association (“WCDWA”) is another longstanding program funded by the Law Foundation. Since 1990, the WCDWA has provided legal information, education and representation primarily to live-in caregivers, but also to other temporary foreign workers. In 2015, they assisted more than 2000 clients. About 95% of WCDWA’s clients are women, and most are visible minorities. Caregivers tend to be isolated in their employer’s homes, face cultural and language barriers, financial constraints, and may be reluctant to speak up about their employment conditions for fear of losing their jobs and the opportunity to apply for permanent residence. Thus, they are more vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation, harassment, and intimidation by employers and employment agencies. The services of WCDWA are key to ensuring access to justice for these workers.
Over the past two years, the Law Foundation has also funded two time-limited projects designed to address the needs of immigrants and refugees. In 2014-2015, Kinbrace Community Society received support to write, translate and print Refugee Hearing Preparation: A Guide for Refugee Claimants. The Guide provides information about legal issues, clearly sets out important timelines, lists key resources for refugee claimants, and provides practical information about how best to prepare for a refugee hearing. Originally launched in BC in four languages with the help of the Law Foundation, the Guide is now available in the six refugee determination centres in Canada in 10 languages. Seen by many as a valuable resource, the Guide is available in print and online at kinbrace.ca/rhp-guide.
Last year, the Foundation provided funding to Kelowna Community Resources to deliver a series of workshops for 80 immigrants and employers in the Central Okanagan region where many temporary foreign workers are employed in local orchards and vineyards. The workshop provided information about important employment law issues as well as family law, debt and bankruptcy, small claims and citizenship.
The Law Foundation believes that the advocacy and immigration work done by the groups it funds is an important contribution to protecting the legal rights of immigrants and refugees in British Columbia.