by Laura Anderson,
North Shore News
“Is my will valid if it is not registered?”
To answer such questions, Jackie Morris established the North Shore Seniors’ Legal Advice and Referral Clinic.
Ten years ago, Jackie had retired from the law. She was ready to return to work within a couple of years, this time on her terms. No more commuting, the practice would be on the North Shore. It would specialize in Jackie’s areas of interest: wills and estate planning. There would be time for gardening and fitness and travel. All the boxes appeared to be ticked but something was missing. Jackie was looking for a way to give back.
She found it at an aquacize class. One of Jackie’s water mates posed “a question I’ve been wanting to ask: ‘Is my will valid if it is not registered?'”
“‘The short answer,’ I said, ‘is yes.'” Jackie goes on, “I realized there was a need for a place where these types of questions could be addressed.”
The need is there. Few of us, including seniors, require regular legal counsel. “That’s as it should be,” she says, “Legal advice is the kind of thing you need when you need it. People are reluctant to call a lawyer when often all they need is a simple answer to a simple question.”
In 2005, the clinic opened at Silver Harbour Seniors’ Activity Centre, which provides space and whose staff is the first contact. North Shore lawyers volunteer their time every Thursday by appointment and without charge. “People come in prepared,” says Jackie. “Their questions are in order and their documents are organized. That really helps us help them.”
Questions about estate planning, finances and consumer issues are most frequently asked at the free weekly clinics. Specialized or complex issues get referred to community agencies, lawyers and mediators, accountants and other professionals practising on the North Shore.
The volunteers do not anticipate a spike in queries resulting from Elder Abuse Awareness Day, marked June 15. “The clinic is a good place to start, however,” says Jackie. “We can discuss options and connect people with services. All visits are confidential, of course.”
Originally from the United States, Jackie and her husband, Jim, moved to Victoria where she taught math. They relocated to Vancouver in the 1980s and Jackie graduated from law at the University of British Columbia. By 1989, the family, now including two children, were living in North Vancouver, first Norgate and then Upper Lonsdale.
The family lives on Tempe Crescent, a former “skid row” route used to move timber from the slopes of Grouse Mountain to the North Vancouver sawmills. Their 1920s home is lovingly restored inside and the outside is a gardener’s dream, a testament to Jackie’s other passion.
A blend of native plants, bee-and butterfly-attracting flowers, fruit trees, berries and vegetables, the garden surrounds the house and extends to a terraced pathway that links 28th Street with Tempe Crescent. “We wanted to protect our garden from invasive plants,” says Jackie, “and the project grew from there.”
With the approval of the City of North Vancouver in 2009, the plants were removed and the land laid fallow to ensure no residual seeds or roots would take hold. Two years ago, the garden began to take shape around the stairway of brick and stone that Jackie designed. The result is beautiful, functional and always changing. Neighbours, children especially, are encouraged to help themselves to the strawberries – producing currently – and to the veggies that will appear throughout the season.
“People come by when we’re working in the garden,” says Jackie. “They want to know about this plant or that and will it grow in their garden.” The neighbours may not be aware they’re getting advice from a master gardener and longtime member of the Lynn Valley Garden Club. The Morrises like to keep it low-key.
With a free legal clinic for seniors and the gift of the Tempe Crescent garden path, Jackie Morris has given back to her community. In fact, the Morrises have done even more. The garden pathway encourages local participation and pride. Volunteers share their skills at the legal clinic. With the Morris method, everyone benefits.
For information about
the North Shore Seniors’ Legal Advice and Referral Clinic,
call Silver Harbour at 604-980-2474.