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Everyday Legal Problems

Options for Legal Help

There are options for free and low-cost legal help.

Depending on how complex your legal issues are, it can be helpful to have a legal professional assist you. There are options for free and low-cost legal help.

Options for free or low-cost legal advice

There may be times when you want legal advice. Options for free or low-cost legal advice include:

Lawyer Referral Service

A service from the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch that offers referrals to lawyers who can provide up to a half-hour consultation for $25 plus taxes. 

Lower Mainland: 604-687-3221
Toll-free: 1-800-663-1919
Email: lawyerreferral@cbabc.org
Web: cbabc.org

Legal Services Society

The agency that operates legal aid in British Columbia provides a range of advice and representation services to help people for certain types of legal problems who meet financial guidelines.

Lower Mainland: 604-408-2172
Toll-free: 1-866-577-2525
Web: legalaid.bc.ca

Access Pro Bono

At clinics throughout BC, volunteer lawyers provide free legal advice to people with limited means.

Lower Mainland: 604-878-7400
Toll-free: 1-877-762-6664
Web: accessprobono.ca

A more affordable way to hire a lawyer — unbundled legal services

According to national surveys of lawyer fees, hourly rates for lawyers range from $200 to $400, depending on the experience of the lawyer, the size of the law firm, and the type of matter. To hire a lawyer in a lawsuit costs $10,000 to $50,000 and beyond, depending on whether the case goes to trial and how complex and contentious it is.  

An emerging option that can reduce the expense is to look for a lawyer that offers "unbundled legal services". This can allow you to get a lawyer's assistance depending on what you can afford and what you need the most help with. See our page on unbundled legal services to learn whether this option could be a good fit for your situation.

Notaries help with many non-contentious legal services

Depending on your situation, you may be able to get help from other legal professionals. A notary public is a legal professional authorized to provide many non-contentious legal services to the public. For example, a notary can prepare a will or power of attorney and notarize signatures on documents. The Society of Notaries Public of BC offers a list of notaries in the province. 

Advocates provide help for low-income and marginalized people

Legal advocates provide free support, advocacy and information to low-income and marginalized people experiencing legal problems. Advocates usually work out of community agencies, such as community service centres, churches or women's centres. PovNet offers a Find an Advocate map, and Clicklaw's HelpMap lists dozens of legal advocates in BC.

Student legal clinics provide assistance in some communities

At student legal clinics in the Lower Mainland and Victoria, law students can help those who would otherwise be unable to afford legal assistance. The students help with legal problems such as tenancy or work problems, accessing government benefits, (less serious) criminal charges, and small claims cases. The University of British Columbia's Law Students' Legal Advice Program clinics serve the Lower Mainland and the University of Victoria's Law Centre serves the Victoria area. 

Finding legal help in your community

The Clicklaw HelpMap includes options for free or low-cost legal help in communities across the province.

For more options for legal help, see the Dial-A-Law page on free and low-cost legal help.

Preparing to Work in BC

Learn how to prepare for and settle into a job if you're coming to work in British Columbia.

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People from all over the world discover opportunities to live and work in British Columbia. In fact, the province’s economy relies heavily on foreign workers. If you’re considering coming to work in BC, these tips can help you prepare for and settle into a job.

Tip 1. Explore government programs for foreign workers

Some people from other countries drop briefly into British Columbia for short-term employment. Others working here apply to become permanent residents. Either way, there are government programs available to foreign workers. 

The federal government’s website explains your options for coming to Canada for work. Use this eligibility tool to see if you qualify to come as an immigrant, temporary resident or visitor.

If you come to BC for temporary work

Every year, employers in British Columbia depend on workers from abroad to meet their short-term needs. Without these workers, some sectors of the province’s economy would face serious challenges.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program permit eligible foreigners to work in Canada for a limited time, and help employers tap into this workforce. (Employers may need to show they can’t find Canadian workers to fill these job openings.) See our guidance on working in BC temporarily for more information.

If you immigrate to Canada

BC’s economy benefits from skilled workers. The BC Provincial Nominee Program helps skilled workers from other countries get permanent residence in BC. 

There are three ways this program can serve such workers:

If none of these describes you, you may still be able to come to Canada through another program. For example:

  • Canadian Experience Class: Helps people with skilled work experience in Canada to become permanent residents.
  • Family Sponsorship: Allows citizens and permanent residents over 18 years of age to sponsor certain types of relatives to come to Canada.
  • Self-Employed Persons Program: Helps people with experience in certain industries, and who will be self-employed in Canada, to become permanent residents.

For more immigration options, see the provincial government’s website.

If you’re immigrating to Canada, you can hire an immigration consultant or lawyer, though the law doesn’t require you to do so. If you choose to do so, watch out for immigration scams. The federal government has information on how to avoid being the victim of fraud and how to choose an immigration representative.

Tip 2. Get help from a settlement service

“I’m originally from the Philippines. Two years ago I moved to BC because my relatives live here. My English wasn’t great, and I didn’t have any Canadian work experience. After arriving, I contacted a settlement service. They helped me register in language classes, take a training course, and even look for jobs. I’ve been working as a mover for eight months now, and I feel very fortunate.”

– John Carlo, Surrey

In BC, community and government organizations assist people new to Canada. These settlement services can answer questions about living and working here. They can help with:

  • language assessments and classes
  • finding a job
  • finding a place to live and navigating other parts of daily life, such as filling out forms or applications
  • information about community services

Use this tool on the federal government’s website to search for settlement services near you.

Many community centres offer programs and facilities for newcomers to Canada, usually in a variety of languages. Try searching online to find a community centre near you, or ask your settlement service agency. 

A neighbourhood house is similar to a community centre. Neighbourhood houses provide many programs and services in Metro Vancouver, and they’re open to everyone. Check out the Association of Neighbourhood Houses BC website to find one near you.

NewToBC works with libraries and immigrant service providers to offer programs for newcomers to BC. The NewToBC website includes immigrant settlement guides.

Tip 3. On searching for a job

In most cases, you must have a job offer in place before you arrive in British Columbia. Here are some resources to check out before you leave your home country:

  • WorkBC job board. Offers a comprehensive database of jobs from across the province.
  • WelcomeBC career profiles. Includes information on dozens of occupations in BC, including wages, licensing requirements, and more.
  • BC’s Labour Market Outlook. Forecasts job opportunities in BC’s labour market over the next few years, and outlines the skills and education needed for them.

For more resources like these, see the provincial government’s website.

To kickstart your job search, you might also try these measures: 

  • Check the online job listings or classified sections of local and national newspapers.
  • Reach out to the employment departments of the organizations you’d like to work for.
  • Ask friends or family in BC for leads.
  • Explore volunteer opportunities to help you get Canadian work experience.
  • Visit the Skilled Immigrant InfoCentre for employment programs and information.

Tip 4. Get a credentials assessment if you’re a skilled worker

Before you start looking for work, you may need to have your credentials assessed if you wish to immigrate under any of the skilled worker or provincial nominee programs.

A credentials assessment will look at any accreditations you got outside Canada, such as:

  • education
  • work experience
  • professional credentials

This assessment will give potential employers an idea of the kind of work you’re qualified to do. It’ll also reveal if your credentials meet the standards set for Canadian workers. If they don’t, you may need to pursue more training, education or Canadian work experience.

See our guidance on coming to Canada as a skilled worker for more information on the topic.

No matter what type of job you’re looking for, make sure you can speak and understand the language. Basic linguistic skills to navigate in a new country are the bare minimum. To land the job you want may require a higher level of proficiency. See this page on improving your English and French.

Tip 5. Determine if you need a work permit

Most foreign workers need a work permit to be legally employed in Canada. 

There are two types of work permits: 

An employer-specific work permit sets the conditions of your permit, including:

  • the name of the employer you can work for
  • how long you can work
  • the location where you can work (if applicable)
  • the job you may work in

An open work permit allows you to work for any employer in Canada (with some exceptions). Find out if you’re eligible to apply for an open work permit

Use this tool to find out if you need to apply for a work permit. Use this tool to determine what type of work permit to apply for.

See also our guidance on working in BC temporarily and extending your work permit.

Tip 6. Apply for a Social Insurance Number

A Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a nine-digit number you need to work legally in Canada, or to access government programs and benefits. A SIN is issued, for life, to one person only. It can’t be used by anyone else. 

You may be eligible to apply for a SIN if you are:

  • a Canadian citizen,
  • a permanent resident, or
  • a temporary resident.

Children 12 years of age or older can apply for their own SIN. The parents or legal guardians of children under the age of majority (19 in BC) can also apply for a SIN on the child’s behalf. 

To apply for a SIN, you must present a valid primary document, such as a birth certificate, that proves your identity and legal status in Canada. You may also need to provide supporting documents if the name you currently use is different than the one on your primary document. 

The federal government’s website explains eligibility and how to apply for a SIN.

Your SIN is your most important piece of personal identification. Take steps to protect it. Otherwise, you could end up being the victim of fraud or theft. The federal government’s website provides some tips on protecting your SIN and knowing when to give it out.

Wills and Estates

Surrey Library - City Centre Branch
10350 University Drive
Surrey, BC V3T 4B8
April 24, 2019

Being an Executor

Port Moody Library
100 Newport Drive
Port Moody, BC V3H 5C3
April 23, 2019

Wills and Estates

South Cowichan Library
2720 Mill Bay Rd
Mill Bay, BC V0R 2P0
April 18, 2019

Power of Attorney

Burnaby Public Library - Bob Prittie Metrotown Branch
6100 Willingdon Avenue
Burnaby, BC V5H 4N5
April 18, 2019

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