Centre For Family Equity

Legal Action

Our work to uphold human rights laws takes the form of targeted legal action to address violations of our Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Our Active Case – Single Mothers’ Alliance v BC

A constitutional challenge against the Province of BC and Legal Aid BC.

Single Mothers’ Alliance v BC alleges that BC has a constitutional responsibility under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure access to the justice system for women in poverty who are fleeing violent relationships.  

We, the plaintiffs, will argue that BC’s legal aid system discriminates against women and children in need of access to legal aid due to their socioeconomic status. We will argue that lack of access to legal aid violates their rights to life and security of the person by increasing their risk of exposure to violence and intense stress. 

I could not sustain the $400 per hour of legal bills so he won the financial battle. The children and I will be impacted by the family debt for the remainder of their childhood.

– single mother who participated in our 2023 Listening and Demographic Campaign

We have been listening to women fleeing violence since we founded in 2014.

Many of our members have experienced intimate partner violence and high-conflict relationship breakdown. And devastating poverty and hardship after they flee dangerous situations. We have heard much about their journeys trying to access family law while living far below the poverty line with limited legal aid available.  

Since we held our first listening campaign in 2014, lack of affordable and adequate access to our family law system in BC has been brought forward to us as a primary issue causing hardship and risk with negative long-term impacts for many lone mother-led families in BC.   

And we won’t back down from protecting their rights. 

The system is not geared to support traumatized women who have been abused... it is very fear and trauma-inducing and intimidating; it is not a safe place.

– single mother who participated in our 2023 Listening and Demographic Campaign

The government tried to have the case chucked out...and lost.

The Province and the Legal Services Society (LSS) made applications to the court arguing that the case should not move ahead in whole (Province) or in part (LSS). On August 23, 2019, the court ruled in no uncertain terms that the case can go ahead as intended. Please click here to access the full ruling. 

The government tried to deny us our day in court through a standing challenge...and lost.

A recent standing challenge against the Single Mothers’ Alliance was rejected by the Supreme Court in late 2022. We were granted public interest standing and our constitutional challenge of the Province’s family law regime is allowed to proceed as of the ruling issued in August 2022. Please the full ruling here. 

What’s Next

We look forward to bringing this case to trial guided by our counsel West Coast LEAF. For up-to-date testimonies from our membership about the impact of lack of access to legal aid and our family law system, please see our Listening and Demographic Report 2023

For more information and to connect with staff directly about sharing your impact story, please email [email protected].

If you are a CFE member seeking more information on how this lawsuit impacts you, please click here to learn more.

From right to left: CFE executive director Viveca Ellis, West Coast LEAF executive director Raji Mangat, CFE board member Erin Arnold and former CFE staff Arveen Kuar attend the hearing on the standing challenge in August 2022.  

Case Documents

Media Coverage

Our History of Legal Action

Within a year of founding in 2014, we launched our first legal challenge regarding the B.C. Government’s policy of clawing back child support payments from those accessing disability and income assistance. The ‘claw back’ was a policy that deepened poverty every day for the poorest children in the province in lone parent led families on income and disability assistance. We were addressing children’s right to benefit from the income of both parents and arguing the claw back violated their charter rights. 

Thanks in part to the pressure brought from our lawsuit and collaborative advocacy with many allies, the clawback policy was rescinded in September 2015. Now, all lone parents accessing income and disability assistance in BC no longer have their child support payments clawed back dollar for dollar from their monthly incomes and BC’s poorest children now benefit from crucial child support. We dropped the charter challenge lawsuit when the harmful policy was ended.