The May 5 meeting of Midway council met with Acting Mayor Gary Schierbeck sitting in for Mayor Randy Kappes who was away for the evening.
Cathy Riddle asked council to consider holding the local contract for a Legal Services Society (LSS) program called the Community Partners Program.
According to the LSS website the role of a community partner is to provide access to public legal education and information materials, act as a link between LSS and people who need to apply for legal aid services, and raise awareness in the community of legal aid and other resources that can help resolve legal issues.
Riddle told council that a Boundary-based advisory committee had met with the LSS last September. She said the Boundary is challenged because there are not a lot of lawyers in the area; there is no legal aid office and no legal advocate.
The advisory committee includes Community Futures Boundary, RCMP Victims Services, Family Services, the women’s coalition and restorative justice amoung others.
The advisory committee would like the service to encompass the entire Boundary; however challenges include transportation, available office space, and finding an organization that will take on the contract itself.
“We are trying to find where it would be best situated and if there is an organization that thinks it fits in their mandate,” said Riddle. She estimated funding from LSS would be adequate for a legal advocate to work one day per week and suggested the position could be shared between available office space in Midway and Grand Forks.
Riddle said the advisory committee has identified a couple of people, “who are retired and bored and they have worked in the field and have shown some interest.” She added that the first advocate hired could be a mentor for others so the program could carry on.
She said that currently when local families are dealing with child custody issues it is almost impossible to find a legal aid lawyer and they are often referred as far away as Cranbrook, the Okanagan or further.
“It is very complicated, very hard on families and this advocate could help the people navigate their way through that.”
She said the Community Partners program could provide safety for kids and raise awareness among people who need some legal aid assistance for whatever matter—“and we could do it from right here in Midway.”
“If you didn’t feel that you could take the grant on is there space available that if we found another organization that they could come out and spend even one day a month in this end so that services are here.”
The matter was deferred to the next council meeting when full council is at the table.
The LSS provides legal aid in B.C., including legal information, legal advice, legal representation, and referrals to other services.
Barb Stewart of the Boundary Invasive Species Society came to the meeting to provide an update and to introduce the new aquatic invasive species inventory project for which she is seeking funding from all local governments this year. Council voted to refer her request to their budget meetings.
Administrator Penny Feist reported the radio repeater changeover is completely done now, with the fire department now entirely on their own frequency.
Sewer and water service rate were increased from $15 per month to $17.50 per month. It was explained that these increases were offset because two frontage taxes—one for the sewer and the other water—had ended. The funds will be put into reserve funds dedicated to the future needs of each service.