Students pitching in with legal help for flood victims

Students pitching in with legal help for flood victims
As they clean up, flood victims have lots of questions about their legal rights and Calgary law students are helping out with that. Photo: Andy Clark/Reuters
A group of law students at the University of Calgary is pitching in to help those affected by the recent floods in Alberta.

The students have partnered with Calgary Legal Guidance, Pro Bono Law Alberta, Legal Aid Alberta, Pro Bono Students Canada, and Student Legal Assistance to offer free legal information sessions to the public.

“The legal community in Calgary as a whole felt that there was a need for legal information to be made available to the public in a free way as opposed to people going and profiting off of very simple legal information questions,” says Kevin Stenner, president of U of C’s Society of Law Students.

Four information sessions were held last week in Calgary and Okotoks, Alta.

“We feel that there is a need, people tell us there’s a need, but I think it’s almost too soon now in a sense that people are still worried about pumping out their basements and the very immediate needs of how to make their homes livable,” Stenner tells 4Students.

More sessions will be offered after the Calgary Stampede once more people are settled back into their homes, he says.

The flooding, which began June 20, affected 110,000 Calgarians and 26 communities were evacuated.

Stenner says he was approached by many law students wanting to help those affected by the flooding. So he, along with Ben Leung, student director at Student Legal Assistance, and Eleanor Carlson, program co-ordinator for Pro Bono Students Canada, came together to organize the sessions.

So far he says at least 60 students have helped out with the sessions, from conducting legal research for the FAQ booklets to running intake at the student-run legal clinic. Calgary Legal Guidance also offers intake clinics for those requiring legal casework.

Information surrounding landlord-tenant, condominium, employment, mortgage, family, insurance, and emergency procedure law is available at the sessions, along with FAQ booklets, lawyer-led presentations on various areas of the law, and a general question and answer period. Members of the public are also able to meet with the lawyers for a brief consultation on their specific issue.

“I’m very proud of the initiative these students have taken to help people who have been affected by the floods,” said Calgary law dean Ian Holloway in a release. “They have recognized that these issues will require a mid- to long-term response, and provide access to justice to those who need it most during this rebuilding period.”

Law firms and lawyers are pitching in to help with the recovery with many involved in fundraising and cleanup efforts. Some examples of firm activities include Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP’s offices across Canada holding a “Round Up for Calgary”  fundraising event on June 27 to support their colleagues and other Calgary residents in the aftermath of the flooding. At its Stampede Roundup event this week, Blakes will be matching guests’ donations to the Red Cross up to $50,000.

Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP cancelled its annual Stampede Eve party and instead is making a $30,000 donation to the Calgary Zoo and a $70,000 donation to the Red Cross Alberta Floods Fund. Stikeman Elliott LLP announced it will match its firm members’ contributions of up to $500 per person to the Canadian Red Cross.

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