Poverty Law Advocates Network of Canada (PLANC) Research Paper

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Prepared by Mary E. Marrone for the Poverty Law Advocates Network of Canada
March 29, 2006

INTRODUCTION
This paper was commissioned by a steering committee comprised of poverty law advocates from across the country. The goal of this committee is to establish a network of advocates to create a national voice for poverty law. The steering committee was initiated by an ad hoc group of poverty law advocates who came together following an international clinic conference held in Ontario in 2003.

Poverty law services are those that enable poor people and disadvantaged communities to advance their interests and legal rights. Typically, such services protect fundamental interests such as shelter and income -- whether through income maintenance schemes, injured workers’ compensation, or employment. Poverty law encompasses areas of law that specifically affect ethno/racial communities, like criminal law when police forces engage in racial profiling, or matters relating to First Nations status. Poverty law services also typically cover a range of services, from individual advice and representation, to community organizing and law reform, to test case litigation and presentation of briefs to legislative and policy bodies. Most importantly, they are services that allow the communities of interest to set their own agenda -- that allows communities to articulate their legal needs, make the decisions about service priorities and strategies to address those needs.

PLANC supports the litigation initiated by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) against the government of British Columbia, the government of Canada, and the Legal Services Society of British Columbia.

This paper will inform a consultation that will include advocates across the country to create a national poverty law network, and to develop advocacy guidelines to present a Canada-wide message for the rebirth of and reinvestment in poverty law. This paper is intended to be a tool to facilitate discussions in the preparations of such guidelines.

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