Consumer Debt Negotiation Project

In the aftermath of the initial wave of COVID-19, Alberta was on the cusp of the largest surge of consumer debt insolvencies since the early 1980s. In response to concerns about institutional capacity in the judicial system to handle this surge, UofC alumnus and distinguished jurist Judith Hanebury, KC, proposed and initiated the Consumer Debt Negotiation Project, a coordinated system-wide response by several organizations and justice sector stakeholders to provide consumer debtors with advice and services including debt mediation, legal assistance to advise them of their options, engage creditors or their counsel to negotiate arrangements, and mental health services.

In the Fall 2020, the Public Interest Law Clinic became the initial home of the Consumer Debt Negotiation Project, and we collaborated closely with the King’s Bench Court Assistance Program administered by Pro Bono Law Alberta, the Faculty of Law’s Student Legal Assistance Clinic, and Calgary Legal Guidance, to develop and administer the project with the help of volunteer lawyers.

Articling students employed by the Clinic and JD students registered in the Clinic’s teaching program worked under the supervision of volunteer lawyers to provide pro bono assistance and advice to individual debtors. The project also included legislative reform initiatives. Students spearheaded an outreach campaign to responsible Ministers and other officials in relevant government departments to raise awareness on systemic problems in consumer debt.

In 2022 the Clinic transferred administration of the project to the Edmonton Community Legal Centre.