Calgary Legal Guidance started in 1972 through the work of law students wanting to help people experiencing poverty and homelessness in the city.
A half century ago, a group of law students decided to do something to help the many people experiencing poverty and homelessness in Calgary, Alberta. Before Legal Aid Alberta or any other pro bono clinic existed, Calgary Legal Guidance (CLG) was born.
“I was proud to learn that CLG pre-dates any other low bono or pro bono legal service in Alberta!” says Marina Giacomin, CLG’s Executive Director since 2016. She added:
While I’ve always been in awe of the work our volunteer lawyers and non-profit lawyers do, I just hadn’t really considered that we were the first ones in this province to try to help people access justice through free lawyers when they had no where else to turn. That handful of law students back in 1971 understood that the law was not accessible to everyone, and they led the way for CLG to help thousands of people with free legal support every year for the past fifty years.
Calgary Legal Guidance has been a leader in offering unique legal programs through a trauma-informed lens to thousands of vulnerable Albertans. Today, almost 200 lawyers volunteer at CLG’s summary legal advice clinics. The demand for services has increased as Calgary has grown, and the continuing pandemic has made it necessary for pro bono clinics to deliver legal services in different ways.
In the last year alone, CLG received over 14,000 calls for help. And the award-winning Domestic Violence Family Law Program has helped hundreds of survivors who have been at even greater risk because of being unable to leave abusive situations during the pandemic.
Another award-winning program at Calgary Legal Guidance is the Indigenous access to justice support offered through the Sahwoo mohkaak tsi ma taas (Blackfoot for “Before Being Judged”) program. The first of its kind in Alberta, it has helped several local Indigenous people and those in nearby communities. The program provides free legal support using culturally sensitive and traditional First Nations approaches to helping people as they navigate a colonial legal system.
Despite the challenges of offering free legal help during a global pandemic, Calgary Legal Guidance launched a few new and innovative programs in the past year:
- the pre-apprehension Child Welfare law project (the first of its kind in the province)
- an educational program to help family lawyers understand how best to serve people experiencing domestic violence
“So fifty years later, we continue to follow in the footsteps of those amazing students who started this work, and we look for the ways we can help fill the gaps in access to justice that people need to make their lives better.” says Giacomin.
To celebrate its 50th year in 2022, CLG will host several events and campaigns to showcase its services. “We’d love for more lawyers and firms across the province to get involved with this work and help make access to justice something every Albertan can experience.”
If you would like to volunteer or help Calgary Legal Guidance, you can learn more by visiting www.clg.ab.ca.
Looking for more information?
The information in this article was correct at time of publishing. The law may have changed since then. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LawNow or the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.
Looking for articles like this one to be delivered right to your inbox?