“Law Matters”- Fall Issue 2012
Author: Carol Mackay, Director, Programs & Operations, CLERC

Recently, my client called me in a panic about her niece’s situation.  The young woman, age 17 was pregnant, confused and scared as her abusive ex-boyfriend was threatening to get custody of the child. Could I help her?  Well no, I’m a corporate lawyer – I know nothing about Family Law and especially dealing with teenagers.  I said I would get back to her as I had some idea there was an organization that might be able to assist her niece.

I looked through the Legal Directory and found CLERC, the Children’s Legal and Educational Resource Centre.  I gave them a call to find out whether they could help my client’s niece.  A very reassuring voice on the other end of the line said; “Yes we can.”  “What services does CLERC offer”, I asked? CLERC provides advice, information and representation to children and youth in civil law matters such as custody & access, landlord/tenant, employment, wills & estates, identification, guardianship, arranged marriages and support to pregnant & parenting youth.  “That’s terrific!  How could my client’s niece get a lawyer?  Does it cost anything?”  No, all of CLERC’s services are free of charge. Have her call us.

There are multiple ways young people can contact CLERC to learn about CLERC’s services.  They can call directly at (403) 207-9029, use our contact form or go to CLERC’s website, www.youthlaw.ca .  On the website they can search questions and answers to specific topics as well as submit a question through CLERC’s “Ask a Lawyer” function.  Professionals and parents can also call CLERC to explore how CLERC may assist a child or youth.  It is important to know that CLERC represents children and youth only, not a young person’s parents or other adults.

Many Judges and Justices in Calgary understand the importance of children and youth having a voice in high conflict custody and access situations.  CLERC frequently receives orders to represent young people in these matters and has two senior lawyers, Dale Hensley, QC & Julie Hart who have over 20 years’ combined experience in the field.  CLERC’s newest lawyer, Danielle Klemen, specializes in representing youth in all other areas, particularly pregnant and parenting youth.  CLERC works closely with many youth-serving agencies, schools, individual lawyers, students and volunteers to raise awareness about the legal rights and responsibilities of youth as well as the services CLERC offers.  CLERC and lawyers from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP offer Legal Outreach for Youth (LOFY) & Affidavit Photo ID clinics in the community.

Every October, CLERC hosts an annual fundraiser, the Artful Bench & Bar (ABB).  2012 marked the 7th annual ABB and CLERC’s 10th Anniversary.  As a non-profit organization, CLERC relies on the support of funders, donors, and fundraising events to ensure services continue to be free of charge to vulnerable children and youth in our community.  Since receiving charitable status in 2002, CLERC has reached thousands of people through information, direct service, presentations, conferences and trainings. In 2012, CLERC increased its client base by almost 70% and will continue to grow in 2013 with the expansion of programs and new funding sources.

10 years have come and gone and CLERC is very grateful to have tremendous support from the legal community year after year.  We hope you will share our secret so we can do bigger and better things in the next 10 years.