Archive for the ‘Legal Services’ Category

Donor News: Legal Coordinator Ralph Helps Youth Navigate the Effects of Racial Profiling

Legal coordinator Ralph shows the Know Your Rights pamphlets

Legal coordinator Ralph shows the Know Your Rights pamphlets


A police report commissioned after the death of Fredy Villanueva, a youth killed by police in 2008, found that Black youth in Montreal are eight times more likely than white youth of the same age to be stopped by the police. This comes as no surprise to Legal Coordinator Ralph, who helps youth navigate the effects of racial profiling in his Know Your Rights workshops. We spoke with Ralph about the reality of racism in Montreal and the importance of empowering youth in knowing their rights.

H&H: What examples of police racism have you come across in your work with youth?

Ralph: I’ve spoken to a lot of Black youth who’ve complained about getting tickets for loitering in the metro while the white youth around aren’t getting ticketed.  My role is to take their experience seriously, share resources, and help them explore different ways they can respond. And if they want legal advice, I can connect them with our volunteer lawyers.

What makes you uniquely positioned to run the Know Your Rights workshops?

I have a paralegal degree, and I’m also a person of colour with lived experiences of racism. This helps me to understand what the youth are going through while being able to provide the theory, history, and context behind it.

What does a typical workshop look like?

I try to keep it fun and interesting. We role play in costume: youth dress up in uniforms with hats and badges. Going through scenarios and teaching youth their rights each step of the way means that if they’re presented with a similar situation in real life, they’ll feel less afraid and be able to stay calm and be assertive. I also teach youth how to take pictures and record conversations, identify police and ask them for their badge. By the end of the workshop, the energy in the room feels lighter. Many youth share personal stories, and say it’s a therapeutic experience.

Workshops happen every 1 to 2 months, when the need is there. There’s also a Know Your Rights video series on our YouTube channel, plus pamphlets and cards at our office and on our website.

Ralph is available to support youth with a variety of issues – from profiling, to housing, divorce, and more. Our legal services receive no dedicated funding, meaning they’re supported entirely by donors like you!


Take a few minutes to support trans rights in Québec!


Trans Rights March

[Image from this past summer’s Trans Rights March in Montreal]


About a year ago, the Québec government brought forward a law with some very exciting promises for trans rights… and we waited a year for the regulations needed to make that law an on-the-ground reality.

Those (proposed) regulations are now here, and… they suck.  They include several requirements that would place trans folks seeking to legally change their name at risk of serious harm.  This is not just disappointing – after so much promise, and such a long wait, it is infuriating.

GOOD NEWS: We can influence the politicians involved to change this regulation!  We can make it better!!  The H&H team has just sent letters to several of the ministers involved, and we’re asking you to do the same.

BONUS: It’s super easy, thanks to some amazing tools created by a collective of awesome trans activists (the same wonderful folks who wrote that analysis of the proposed regulations, linked above)!  Follow these links to download a template letter, as well as a list of contact details for all the government representatives working on this law.

You can send letters by mail or email!  When you do, please shoot a quick message to our friends at the Centre for Gender Advocacy ( to let them know what you’ve done in support of this important campaign.



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Support Sex Workers at Dec 17th Action and Vigil


ACTION SANTÉ, TRAVESTI(E)S ET TRANSSEXUEL(LE)S DU QUÉBEC (ASTTeQ), RÉZO AND STELLA, L’AMIE DE MAIMIE have invited sex workers, those who work with sex workers, and allies to join in a walk and vigil this December 17th, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

Last year, sex workers and allies celebrated a huge victory when the Supreme Court recognized that criminal laws contribute to systemic violence that sex workers experience, and declared those laws unconstitutional (check out this link for more information). This year, however, the federal government introduced a new set of laws (known collectively as C-36) which came into effect on December 6th and will once again cause harm to sex workers – compromising safety, security, and dignity.

C-36 is a big concern for us and the folks we work alongside with on a daily basis. We here at Head & Hands, an organization committed to harm and risk reduction, believe that C-36 will lead to increased surveillance and criminalization of marginalized and racialized communities – trends we are already fighting against! C-36 is a strong reminder as to the importance of our Street Work program, our legal clinic, our work against racial profiling, and our commitment to underscoring the strength and resilience of our communities. These laws also remind us that the fight for safe working conditions, decriminalization, and dignity for sex workers is rooted in demands to end to gendered, racialized, systemic violence. The fight continues.

With the passage of C-36 , we at Head & Hands, along with ACTION SANTÉ, TRAVESTI(E)S ET TRANSSEXUEL(LE)S DU QUÉBEC (ASTTeQ), RÉZO AND STELLA, L’AMIE DE MAIMIE are calling for people to come together  to demand safe working conditions for sex workers.

We encourage you to learn more about the incredible work STELLA is doing, about Bedford v. Canada, and about the devastating laws under C-36.

We are calling upon you to come out in numbers on Dec 17th to support sex workers and call for an end to gendered, racialized, systemic violence. We are looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!


When: December 17th, 2014, 4:30pm-5:30pm


Meeting point @ 4:30pm

Montreal Municipal Court

775 rue Gosford, Montréal

(Champs de Mars metro)


Vigil afterwards

Palais de Justice

1 Rue Notre-Dame East, Montréal

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Racial Profiling & Know Your Rights: New Video Resources!


know Your RightsThese past few months, racial profiling and police violence have been in the international media spotlight. The murder of unarmed teenager Mike Brown, the acquittal of the police officer responsible for his death, and the resulting popular mobilizations in Ferguson have all shed light on this issue.

For youth of colour in Montreal, racial profiling and police harassment have been parts of their daily reality for years. In the last two decades, Montreal police have killed at least 47 civilians – including unarmed teenager Fredy Villanueva in 2008. The police report commissioned in response to Villanueva’s death concluded that Black youth in Montreal are eight times more likely to be stopped by police than White youth of the same age.

If you or someone you know has experienced racial profiling, Head & Hands can support in a few different ways (free of charge for youth 12-25, like all our services):

-Through active listening and non-judgmental conversation, we create safe spaces to be heard, acknowledge the trauma caused by racial profiling, and let youth know they aren’t alone in these experiences

-Through individual support from our Legal Coordinator, we empower young people to follow up on experiences of racial profiling, explaining their options and helping them navigate bureaucracy (for example, in order to file official complaints or contest unjustified tickets)

-Through our workshops and published resources, we educate youth and communities around how to react when they face racial profiling, by providing information about rights and responsibilities as well as strategies for conflict de-escalation

This week, we are very excited to launch our “Know Your Rights” video series – a new resource intended to share key information from our legal program with a broader audience, and spark conversations around this important issue. Each of these video capsules contains strategies for asserting your rights and de-escalating tense interactions, including “Interacting with Police” and “Loitering & Arrest“.

To request support, book a workshop, or get more information about our full range of legal support services, click here or call Ralph at 514-481-0277.




Today, we’re very excited to launch the newest resource on our website: a series of interactive quizzes allowing you to test your legal knowledge and get quick answers to some of our most common questions!

Over many years offering legal support services, certain questions pop up again and again – questions about housing and evictions, labour rights, ticketing and arrests, and dealing with the youth protection system. We’ve gathered these questions together into simple on-line quizzes, which we hope will provide easy access answers to some of your most pressing issues!

If you have a situation that needs deeper answers, and want to go further than these quizzes can take you, please don’t hesitate to give us a call! Our legal coordinator, Ralph, is available on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays to support youth with questions around all manner of legal issues. We also offer evening legal clinics each Wednesday and Thursday, where community members of all ages can meet with volunteer lawyers for some quick advice. And of course, if we’re not able to support you with your particular situation, we’ll be happy to offer a referral to one of the other great legal resources in this city.

Spotlight on: super-volunteer lawyer Irving Narvey!

Irving Narvey stopped by to chat after a couple rounds of tennis! Lovin the semi-retired life!

Irving Narvey stopped by to chat after a couple rounds of tennis! Gotta love the semi-retired life!

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on super-volunteer Irving Narvey, who, after 43 years giving his time and expertise at the Head & Hands legal clinic, has finally left us to enjoy the fruits of a semi-retired life. 43 years?! That’s right: Mr. Narvey has been volunteering since the inception of the legal clinic, and for almost the entirety of his career!

Fresh out of law school and just starting his own law practice, Irving was invited to get involved in 1971 by Eric Smith, who was one of the first volunteer lawyers at Head & Hands.

“I guess when you’re young and principled, and you carry your sword, you want to help people,” Mr. Narvey told us. “Coming to Head & Hands was an opportunity to meet people who were in need of legal advice, and obviously to give back. And there I was, in a position to do so, and I was thrilled to do it, so I did.”

As a 28-year-old, I have a hard time understanding how anybody could do anything for 43 years, so I had to ask: what kept you coming back to volunteer, after a long day at work, for more than four decades?! “It really wasn’t a hefty burden at all,” said Irving. “I always saw myself as a litigator, representing the people before the courts, and fighting for their rights…I’d like to think that my practice was people-oriented, so coming here was really an extension of what I did on a full-time basis for a living.”

When asked about the best part of volunteering at Head & Hands, Mr. Narvey didn’t hesitate: “Being in touch with the people. What can I tell you? People need people! As a matter of fact, if I didn’t know that Barbara Streisand had already done it I would have written the song.”

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On behalf of the entire team at Head & Hands, and the hundreds of community members who have benefited from your legal expertise over the past four decades, thank you Irving! We wish you many healthy and happy years of relaxation as you move into a very well-deserved semi-retirement.

Throwback Thursday: DIY Divorce!


Legal Services Coordinator Ralph, with the DIY Divorce Pamphlet from back in the day!

Today we’re taking a look at Head & Hands’ former Do-it-Yourself Divorce service! To find out how it worked, we caught up with two people involved in the service back in the day—former participant Cheryl, and Gabor, who has been a lawyer at the H&H Legal Clinic since the mid-1970s. 

If you have memories to share about DIY Divorce, please do in the comments! But for now…story time!

 I learned about the do-it–yourself divorce course from a newspaper ad. I was separated from my husband and didn’t have the money to see a lawyer so I decided to take this amazing opportunity. The course was given by this lovely lady, Sandra Frost, who unfortunately died several years ago, but I will never forget her.

The course was free and we met as a group in varying intervals. Sandra expertly guided us all through each step. She gave us the information by giving us all copies of every document that had to be typed out, in what order, how many copies needed to be typed, and which department of the courts that they had to be presented to. It was time consuming especially given that no one used a computer back in the day! I had never even learned how to type so making four mistake-free carbon copies took me forever, but Sandra encouraged us every step of the way.

After all of the documents had been prepared and filed we waited to find out through the mail what our date at court would be. Because it had to be a no-fault divorce, that is to say, the spouses involved would not be contesting anything, we did not use the services of a lawyer and we represented ourselves in court. Sandra also explained to us what to expect and how to comport ourselves in front of a judge. It was quite a nerve-wracking experience, to say the least, as the atmosphere in the courtroom was daunting and the judge was very imposing and I was very young!

However, the only thing that I had to pay was the fee for the bailiff to present my papers to my soon-to-be ex husband, around $50. After it was all over, my sister and I went out for lunch with my now ex-husband. It was very civilized! I will always be grateful to H&H for the amazing help that I received from them at this time in my life when I needed it.

– Cheryl: former client, current volunteer and donor

I don’t remember when H & H started the service but it seems it was more than 20 years ago. It was important because many people had simple uncontested divorces and could not afford the $500 to $1000 divorce fees that lawyers were charging. Some people who could afford to pay the lawyer’s fees but wanted to control their own divorce file and did not want to be at the mercy of their lawyer also took the course.

Of course the same situation exists today in that some people have simple divorces but can`t afford the fees, especially the increased fees lawyers now charge. Unfortunately the procedure in court has become more complicated especially where child support is payable and a course that used to take, I believe about six or so sessions, might require a few more.

– Gabor Glasz: volunteer lawyer at the Head & Hands legal clinic, former board member

Head & Hands no longer offers DIY Divorce classes, but we do have a legal clinic where community members can speak with a family lawyer, and a legal coordinator who is there to help youth with all legal queries. In the last year alone, our volunteer family lawyers assisted with 157 cases!

Give the Gift!!



Did you know that since street work re-launched in October, demand for our emergency food pantry has more than doubled? The need for our medical, legal, and social services is growing, and so we put on our thinking caps to increase financial support this winter. Allow us to introduce our new fundraising campaign, Give the Gift!

When you donate online through Give the Gift, you’ll receive a package of custom-designed cards, ready to print at home and give to friends and family on behalf of each donation. Give the Gift was made possible thanks to two talented local Head & Hands supporters: web programmer, Danielle Bakhazi, and youth artist, J’VLYN.

No matter the occasion, we’ve got you covered in English and French, with cards for celebrating gratitude, birthdays, anniversaries, congratulatory moments, incredible friendships, a new life, or just because! 

Give the Gift cards are perfect for the person who says they don’t need anything, who doesn’t want more stuff, who wishes they had more time to volunteer, who believes in buying local, who believes in homemade gifts, who believes in ethical giving, who you have no idea what to buy, for the person who loves Head & Hands, and for the person that you love. 

No matter who is on the receiving end, they can’t deny the wicked awesome goodness that comes from a donation being made in one’s honour to support youth in our community.

Okay, so we’ve explained why it’s amazing. But how does it WORK?!

1. Go to our Give the Gift page by clicking here

2. Decide how much you want to donate via your credit card or PayPal account

3. Receive a PDF file with a ton of beautiful cards

4. Pick the card you like

5. Print the card you like

6. Personalize it and send it!

7. Enjoy being the best gift giver ever.

It’s easy and fabulous.

Have any questions? No problem! Call Juniper or Jen at 514-481-0277!

Volunteer Opportunity: Legal Clinic & Resources


Head & Hands is seeking a legal volunteer for 6 weeks this summer!

We are in search of a volunteer to help with the Head & Hands’ legal services. The volunteer’s main task will be to help coordinate the legal clinics (which occur bi-weekly), as well as to update the legal resource guide and web capsules. The resource guide is used by the Legal Coordinator as well as front desk workers, so as to provide useful resources to youth. The web capsules are geared towards clients accessing our webpage. The goal of the above tasks is to ensure that the Head & Hands legal clinics run smoothly and that the resources are up to date and easy to access. We are seeking a volunteer to be available twice a week (for approximately 6 hours per week) for a period of 6 weeks, ideally starting July 3rd, 2013.

The ideal volunteer is a 1st or 2nd year law student, bilingual, reliable, creative, organized, autonomous, has a basic knowledge of the law and its interpretations, familiarity with WordPress, as well as good writing and editing skills (French and English). Experience in legal research and familiarity with youth culture are assets.

For more information about our legal services in general, please explore our website. Interested candidates please respond by sending a cover letter to or call 514-481-0277 and ask to speak with Ralph (Legal Coordinator). Deadline for volunteer applications is Friday June 21st.

Thank you!

Legal Workshop on Bill 78


What is Bill 78? Are all public gatherings illegal? How do you contest a ticket? You can find the answers to all these questions and more at the workshop we’re offering on August 6th from 6:00 – 7:30 pm! Come join Andrée Bourbeau, member of the CLASSE legal committee and UQAM law student, who will discuss the impact of Bill 78 and give an update on the tribunal proceedings contesting this law. This will be followed by a presentation on how to contest a ticket from Daniel Barza, a lawyer who volunteers his expertise in criminal and civil law at our legal clinic. If you have questions or concerns about this important issue, we invite you to come out and participate in this night of information sharing, at our offices at 5833 Sherbrooke St. West!

Let’s set the record straight before back-to-school this fall!