Those fleeing domestic abuse need help, not opposition

Helping those in need

I am divorced.

That is not a secret and, in fact, many will know I changed my name back to my maiden name once my divorce was finalized and my kids graduated from high school.

Going through a divorce can be incredibly difficult and scary, especially if you don’t have money to pay for a lawyer.

While I was fully employed when I went through my divorce, there were many times I was overwhelmed with gratitude and an understanding of how difficult it would have been if I wasn’t.

That is why I will use my voice and my strength to stand up for those who are in that difficult situation.

I serve on the Select Standing Committee for Finance and have heard from many agencies about how poorly funded single mothers are to seek representation in court. The stories are horrific, as many mothers are running for their lives, never mind fighting through a difficult system without resources.

So last week, I sent out a news release about the court case between the B.C. government and the Single Mothers’ Alliance (SMA).

The government has challenged the legal standing of the SMA in its attempts through the justice system to secure funding and resources for single mothers and their children fleeing domestic abuse.

These single moms are looking for help from the government when it comes to legal aid to help navigate family law court in the wake of fleeing domestic abuse.

In February 2022, in his then capacity as attorney general, David Eby directed lawyers to try and crush the ability of organizations to sue the government on behalf of people with very little money and power.

We know women suffer disproportionately from inadequate access to family legal services, with 70 per cent of family legal aid applications made by women and 55 per cent of all family legal aid applications refused.

It’s long overdue to increase funding and access to legal aid for family law cases and do everything we can to help those women get the support they need to separate from an abusive partner and secure custody and safety for their children.

As attorney general, Eby also commissioned and received a report that reviewed how to improve the province’s legal aid system. That report has been ignored by the government for three and a half years.

British Columbians deserve a government that has their back, not one that hinders the efforts of mothers vying for their safety. It’s unthinkable.

My party is calling on the government to back down in its fight against single mothers and increase funding, access and eligibility thresholds for legal aid for family law cases.

As a mother and my part’s critic for Gender, Equity and Inclusion, I will continue to use my voice to advocate for those who need support in order to make it through the legal system and find safety for themselves and their children.

My question to you this week is:

What do you see the role of government being in protecting single mothers and their children?

I love hearing from you. Please reach out via email at [email protected] or call 250-712-3620.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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