• Nick Zacharias

Free legal helpline for all


PHOTO COURTESY FRANCE GAIGNARD

A two-day free phone-in legal clinic hosted by the Young Bar Association of Montreal will take place August 29 and 30 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and is open to all Quebecers.

In a continuing biannual tradition, the Young Bar of Montreal (YBM) is planning to once again run a two-day hotline giving free legal advice and information to any and all Quebec citizens who need it. On Saturday and Sunday, August 29 and 30, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., volunteer lawyers and notaries will take citizens’ calls on all manner of matters.

“The YBM is an association with around 5,000 members, all of whom have been practicing law for under 10 years in Montreal” said the organization’s president and lawyer, Mylène Lemieux. “We have more than 100 volunteers from the YBM ready to take calls on the last weekend of August, with the support of the Barreau du Québec and the Centre d'accès à l'information juridique.”

Efficient setup

“The service is open to everyone, regardless of age or financial status,” said Lemieux. To accommodate the large number of calls they expect, a first line of responders will determine the callers’ needs, then redirect them to a lawyer standing by from the appropriate field.

The YBM, established back in 1898, has been providing this service twice a year for decades, in the spirit of improving public access to justice. Over the past 10 years, more than 15,000 calls from citizens have been received as part of this initiative, an average of 1,500 calls per year. Legal experts take calls (for an average of about 20 minutes each) to help citizens with various issues, and they’ll take more time or call back as needed to make sure people have the resources they need. “For this summer,” said Lemieux, “our goal is to answer 2,000 calls.”

Advice on anything legal

The range of questions they get is huge. It can be questions about family law (say, in the case of parents who have separated arguing over the choice of school for their children), about labour disputes, penal law (perhaps a traffic ticket someone is looking to contest) or some kind of disagreement over a contract.

“This year, especially because of the pandemic, we anticipate an increase in questions about ‘neighbourly disputes’,” said Lemieux, “so we’re putting a special focus on dispute prevention and resolution.” The idea is that since the challenges and stresses of COVID-19 have sometimes led to an increase in conflicts between neighbours, the YBM is hoping to use this event as a means to help people find creative ways to resolve conflicts, and to help callers prepare themselves in ways that can aide both parties find their way to a solution.

"Citizens can count on lawyers to find a solution that is appropriate and satisfactory to their problem," says Paul-Matthieu Grondin, President of the Bar of Quebec. "We continue to support participatory justice as a primary avenue for access to justice with reduced time and cost."

A phone call away

Those in need of free, qualified legal advice can call the hotline at 1-844-779-6232, anytime between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on the weekend of August 29 and August 30. The weekend is part of the YBM’s mission to provide pro bono consulting services and legal information, and to improve access to justice for all.

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