By Krishna Shetye, January 4 2020—
The University of Calgary Faculty of Law has launched a new project to assist Albertans battling outstanding debt, an initiative based on the economic downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Consumer Debt Negotiation Project, as it’s known, is composed of volunteer lawyers — active, retired and former judges — who outline the various options people have regarding consumer debt. Although primary advice will come from experienced lawyers, law students will also partake as the program is included in the teaching program at the Faculty of Law, according to their webpage.
Christine Laing, executive director of the UCalgary Public Interest Law Clinic, spoke of the debtors the program has helped in an interview with CBC.
“I think we’re all a little bit ‘deer in the headlights’ when a crisis strikes. So many of us had jobs, had plans and then were blindsided by these things coming,” she said.
This new initiative offers those who have climbing debt and cannot afford lawyers some insight and advice before their situation passes the critical point of no return.
The program’s site notes that current legal and counselling services are not meeting this need, further emphasizing the importance of this new service. Although the Consumer Debt Negotiation Project offers notably different services, it will be collaborating and coordinating with existing services. These include Pro Bono Law Alberta’s duty counsel and amicus programs and Calgary Legal Guidance’s summary advice clinics.
Based on COVID-19 restrictions, the program will run virtually with clients needing access to Zoom via phone or computer. Client documents will need to be scanned and sent prior to dispersal of advice in order to allow volunteers a thorough chance to prepare.
For more information about the program and applying for the service visit the Consumer Debt Negotiation Project site.