Introduction to Legal Information for Indigenous People

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The Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program has provided services to people in Bella Coola and the neighbouring territories for nearly 15 years. People come in for help with everything from family and criminal matters to wills and estates, to employment standards, human rights, debt, housing, pensions, and more. This work inspired this resource. When we dealt with these different legal issues, we knew that our clients’ legal situations would often be based on their being Indigenous and/or their living on reserve. At the same time, we were not finding many legal resources that comprehensively looked at this or provided much guidance. We wanted to create a booklet that would address this gap and be readily available to the people in our communities and beyond. This booklet offers a snapshot of the legal issues people face and lays out the first steps for people navigating these legal situations.

Legal Information for Indigenous People

  • provides quick access to basic legal information that is not always readily available,
  • offers a concise guide for people facing legal concerns,
  • eases the first hurdle for people - knowing what questions to ask, and
  • makes complex information easier to understand.

Although the laws are often the same for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, there are a number of important areas where this is not the case. Laws can vary for people based on their Indigeneity in matters of child protection, criminal justice and human rights. These areas of law offer different legal processes and remedies for Indigenous people to better support their specific situations. Laws can also vary for Indigenous people based on their living and working on reserve. Taxation, Wills & Estates and Matrimonial Property are all examples of this.

Although our clients are primarily Indigenous and living on reserve, the BCLAP often has to switch gears and assist both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people living off the reserve. Even when the laws are the same for everyone, people can still be unsure how best to proceed. Legal Information for Indigenous People is for this, too. This booklet is good to have on hand for when you, family or friends find yourselves in legal situations and are not sure what to do. This publication is not a replacement for seeking legal advice, however. For additional questions about your situation, please contact one of the many resources suggested here.

© Copyright 2022, Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program (BCLAP).