How free legal support at Montreal Children’s Hospital is helping patients’ families – Montreal |

As a victim of domestic violence, it’s been a difficult journey for Sarah.

For safety reasons, Global News has agreed not to use the mother’s real name.

Her daughter was admitted to the Montreal Children’s Hospital last year when she fell sick, shortly after moving to Canada from abroad.

“My situation is so difficult — for two and a half months living in my apartment, he put in cameras inside, he was not allowing me phones,” Sarah said of her former partner.

After finding a way to escape her home, she was able to get help from the hospital.

The hospital assigned her a social worker who connected her with their in-house triage lawyer.

“I meet with her [the lawyer] and first day she said one sentence: ‘I am with you,’” said Sarah.

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Aude Exertier, a lawyer with Justice Pro Bono, was able to help the mother with multiple things.

She helped her fill out a housing application, obtain her health insurance card and sign up for family allowances.

The organization also found her a lawyer for her court proceedings related to her custody and domestic violence cases.

“Most of the time, the families or the parents they don’t know they have a legal issue,” said Exertier. “They don’t know that a lawyer can help. So that’s why it’s really important that a triage lawyer is part of the medical setting in the hospital.”

The partnership between Justice Pro Bono and the Montreal Children’s Hospital has been in place for six years.

Exertier says the organization helps about 50 families a year.

Staff at the hospital say the medical-legal partnership greatly helps both families and doctors navigate complicated situations.

“As a clinician, I don’t know who to turn to — our social workers might but there’s that time that it takes to find the right people, even knowing what kind of law, what kind of lawyer you might go to,” said Dr. Patricia Li, Montreal Children’s Hospital pediatrician.

“All these steps can be barriers to efficient care and some of these issues are quite timely.”

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At the moment, Justice Pro Bono is only available to families at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, but the organization is hoping to expand their services to other health institutions throughout the province.

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