Support and help

Last reviewed: March 11, 2024

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Arrival Advisor (mobile app)

Download the Arrival Advisor app to your smartphone. Use it to find settlement information and community resources. The app is available in English, French, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Korean, Punjabi, and Tagalog. 


BC211 can help you find government and community services you may need. These include counselling, employment, childcare, financial assistance, food, senior services, housing, legal services, immigrant services, education, arts and culture, recreation, health services, and support groups. The service is free and confidential (private). It is offered in many languages. Toll-free: 2-1-1
BC211 also operates these services:
  • VictimLink BC is a toll-free, confidential telephone service offered in many languages. It provides information and referral services to all victims of crime. It also provides immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence, including victims of human trafficking exploited for labour or sexual services. VictimLink is funded by the B.C. government. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Toll-free: 1 800 563-0808 
  • Alcohol & Drug Information and Referral Service Toll-free: 1 800 663-1441
  • Shelter and Street Help Line 2-1-1
  • Gambling Support Line BC Toll-free: 1 888 795-6111
  • Youth Against Violence Line Toll-free: 1 800 680-4264

Crisis centres

Having problems that are too big to handle alone is called a crisis. People can have mental health problems (such as depression or anxiety) or family problems (such as a marriage breakup, or abuse). Problems can feel even bigger after moving to a new country.

If your situation feels too hard to manage, or if you feel you are all alone with your problems, you can get help. Do not feel ashamed. Call a crisis centre. Crisis centres have people you can talk to. They can also help you find resources. All calls are free, and services are available in many languages.

Violence, abuse, and neglect

Abuse, violence, and neglect are always wrong. If someone abuses you, try not to feel ashamed. It is not your fault. You can get help. Do not try to face the problem alone. In Canada, all violence and threats of violence are against the law. The police can arrest someone who hurts or threatens another person. The person could get a fine or go to jail.

If there is a crisis, call 911. Someone will send police or an ambulance to you. You can also call VictimLinkBC. Toll-free: 1 800 563-0808 Email:

Assault and sexual assault

If someone hits or hurts you, it is called assault. If someone says they will hurt you, and you believe that person will do it, it is also assault. It is against the law for someone to assault you. Sexual assault is any form of sexual contact without a person’s consent. Sexual assault includes unwanted sexual touching. It also includes forced sexual intercourse (also called “rape”). If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.

You can call VictimLinkBC. They can help you to see a doctor, talk to a counsellor, report to the police, and get other support services. This is a free service. It is also confidential. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Toll-free: 1 800 563-0808 

The Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) Rape Crisis Centre has a crisis and information line that is open 24 hours a day. They can give you help and emotional support right away. They can also refer you to services and programs that can help. Toll-free: 1 877 392-7583
The Victim Services & Violence Against Women Program Directory helps people who have been hurt by a crime. They also help women and children who experience violence. The directory has contact information for services and programs that can help you.
You can report sexual assault to the police, even if it happened long ago. Call your local police or RCMP office. For information about reporting a crime, visit the government of B.C. website
If you are 19 years of age or older, and do not want to call the police yourself, you can call a victim service program in your community. They can report the crime, and the police will not know who made the report. 

Abuse in the family

Abuse can happen in families. Abuse, violence, and neglect are always wrong. The person who abuses others may be the wife, husband, same-sex partner, or common-law partner. Children, parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, and in-laws are also family.
There are many forms of abuse that can happen in a family. Some examples include:
  • physical abuse: hitting or kicking someone, or using a weapon (such as a stick or a belt) to hurt someone
  • sexual abuse: any form of sexual contact without a person’s consent
  • emotional abuse: threatening to take away a person’s children; not letting someone talk to friends or family; not letting the person go out of the house; or threatening to take away immigration sponsorship
  • financial abuse: not letting a person get a job, keep a job, get job training, or have money
  • spiritual abuse: not letting someone practice his or her religion; using religion to scare, hurt, or control someone
In Canada, it is against the law to harm, or threaten to harm, another person. You can leave an abusive family situation.  You don’t have to stay in an abusive relationship to keep your status in Canada. If you are a permanent resident, you have rights and freedoms in Canada. If you have temporary status in Canada, you also have options.

For more information, visit these websites:

If you need help

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
  • VictimLinkBC can help you see a doctor, talk to a counsellor, report to the police, and get other support services. This is a free and confidential service. Toll-free: 1 800 563-0808
  • Call a Transition House or Safe Home Program. Transition houses help women leaving a home where someone is abusing them. They help women who are alone, and they also help women with children. Transition houses are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are a safe place for women to stay while they find a new place to live.

Child abuse and neglect

It is every parent’s responsibility to take good care of their children. Abuse, violence, and neglect (not meeting their basic needs) are always wrong. If you think a child needs help, call the Helpline for Children. Dial 310-1234 from anywhere in B.C. No area code is needed. They answer the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


There are many kinds of abuse. Bullying is when a person wants to make others feel uncomfortable, scared, or hurt. A person may bully others about the way they look, their age, culture, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Bullying can also happen through social media (cyber bullying). Bullies can text or post mean statements or photos, send threatening messages, or spread lies about a person.

For more information, or if you need to speak to someone about bullying, visit the ERASE website.
For information on discrimination and harassment in the workplace, see the Working in B.C. section

Help for young people

Many agencies have special counsellors to help young people. Counsellors can answer youths’ questions. They can also give advice about pregnancy, drugs, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and other problems. You can search for services online. You can also ask your local public health unit about youth counsellors in your community

To find youth counsellors, use the HealthLinkBC search tool.
There are community agencies to help children and young people. Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada matches an adult with a child as part of a mentoring program. The adult is like the child’s older sister or brother. To find out if there is a Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada program in your community, go to the website.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada also help young people. The clubs have many afterschool programs. Children can play sports and learn skills.
Foundry helps young people aged 12 to 24 to be healthier. They offer health and wellness resources and support, including an online help platform.
The Kids Help Phone is for children and youth. They give information and support to young people with any kind of  problem. You can call, text, or access their mobile app or website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You do not have to tell them your name. The information you give them is confidential (they will not tell anyone that you called). Toll-free: 1 800 668-6868
Children and youth who need help can also call the Helpline for Children. Phone: 310-1234 (no area code required)
The Youth Against Violence Line is a safe telephone line for young people to report crimes and violence. You can stay anonymous (you do not have to tell them your name). You can call to talk about your problems. Counsellors can refer you to services and programs for help. They also have information about gangs and bullying. The Youth Against Violence Line is open 24 hours a day. Service is available in many languages. Toll-free: 1 800 680-4264 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
The Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Counselling and Empowerment (PEACE) program is for children and youth between ages 3 to 18 and their non-offending caregiver. If there is violence in your home (domestic violence), you can contact PEACE. There is no charge, and the program is confidential. They will not tell anyone that you called. Use the Victim Services Directory to search for “PEACE” and the name of your community.
Options for Sexual Health clinics offer birth control, pregnancy tests, and tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). People of all ages can go to these clinics. They can help you with questions or problems related to sexual health. They can also refer you to a doctor. There are more than 60 clinics across British Columbia. Toll-free: 1 800 739-7367

Elder abuse and neglect

Sometimes older adults (seniors) are abused or mistreated. Senior abuse (also called elder abuse) can take many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse. Seniors may be neglected (not have their needs met). For information in many languages about elder abuse and neglect, visit the Government of B.C. website. You can also visit HealthlinkBC.
If you or a senior you know are experiencing abuse or neglect, call the Seniors Abuse & Information Line (SAIL). Toll-free: 1 866 437-1940 Vancouver area: 604 437-1940
You can call VictimLinkBC. This is a free and confidential service. Toll-free: 1 800 563-0808

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Problems with alcohol, drugs, and gambling

Many people have problems with alcohol and drugs, like cannabis, cocaine, crystal meth, or heroin. They can also have problems using medical drugs prescribed by a doctor, like strong drugs given to ease pain or anxiety. Some people have problems with activities, like eating, sex, or gambling. While not everyone has problems with drugs, alcohol, or gambling, some people may become addicted. These problems can become very severe. They can put you, your family, and other people in danger.
The Alcohol & Drug Information and Referral Line has information about drug and alcohol addiction programs. They can help you find support to deal with the harmful use of alcohol or other drugs. They can also help you find counselling and treatment programs, detox services, recovery homes, and support groups near where you live. The Referral Line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Help is available in many languages. Toll-free: 1 800 663-1441
Cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed, or pot) is now legal to use in Canada. Many people still have questions about it. Visit the Government of B.C. website for information about cannabis, including what is and is not legal.
If you are struggling with a gambling problem (yours or someone else’s), you can get help for free. Support and treatment services are provided in many languages. The B.C. Responsible & Problem Gambling Program has confidential and free education and support services. The website has information about self-assessments, counselling, and GamTalk (a free, confidential, online forum). Visit the website or call the BC Gam Info Line. Toll-free: 1 888 795-6111 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

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B.C. Employment and Assistance Program

The B.C. government gives income assistance to eligible people who are in need and have no other resources through the BC Employment and Assistance (BCEA) program. This can help support your transition to employment. You may be eligible if:
  • you are out of work or not earning enough to meet your basic needs
  • you are waiting for other sources of money to arrive
  • you can’t work at all
  • you urgently need food, shelter, or medical attention
Income assistance is paid every month. It is available to those who meet eligibility requirements. When you apply, the B.C. government will check your financial situation (your income, expenses, and things you own) to decide if you are eligible.  Toll-free: 1 866 866-0800

You can apply for income assistance online.
Immigration settlement agencies may also be able to help you access income assistance.


People who are homeless have no place to live. People become homeless for many reasons. They may feel unsafe at home. They may lose their home because of fire, money problems, or a family breakup. They may not have any money to pay for a place to live. If you do not have a safe place to stay, you can go to an emergency shelter. Emergency shelters are free.

People who work at an emergency shelter can help you look for a new place to live. They can also provide food, clothing, showers, and other things you may need. BC Housing provides emergency shelters for anyone who is homeless or who may lose their home. 
BC211 operates the Shelter and Street Help Line to help people in the Vancouver, Fraser Valley, and Victoria areas. Phone or text 2-1-1
Immigration settlement agencies may also be able to help you access emergency shelter programs. 

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Food banks

If you cannot afford to buy enough food, you may be eligible to receive free food from a food bank. They may also offer programs about healthy eating, cooking, and managing money. Each food bank has different services. Some can help you find other services in the community. To receive food, you may have to prove that you do not earn enough money.

To find a food bank in your community, contact Food Banks BC. 

People donate (give) food and money to the food bank. Anyone can donate. You can find food bank donation boxes in grocery stores, churches, community centres, and other places.

Help for families

In Canada, children have the right to survive, to prosper, to meet their full potential, and to be protected by the adults who care for them. There are laws to protect children.
  • British Columbia law says that parents are responsible for financially supporting their children until they turn 19. In B.C., the age of majority (becoming a legal adult) is 19. Parents may also be required to support children after they are 19.
  • You can only use force to discipline children over age 2. The amount of force you use must be light.
  • You cannot cut or injure the genitals of girls or women.
  • You cannot trade your children or their labour to someone for money.
Parents have specific responsibilities to provide care and supervision for their children. 

Canadian law also says that you do not have to marry someone (or stay married to them) if you do not want to. You do not need permission from your spouse or your family to separate or get divorced.

The Parent Support Services Society provides support, information, education, workshops, and resources to parents and grandparents across the province. Toll-free: 1 877 345-9777
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is a support group for people who are raising another family member’s children. 

Children who need extra support

Some families have a child who needs extra care. A child may be late to learn certain abilities (developmentally delayed).  A child may also have an illness or disability. The B.C. government can help families give extra care to children.
Children and Youth with Special Needs Workers can help families. They can give families important information and refer them to government and community support. Find a worker in your area.
If you are eligible for the Affordable Child Care Benefit and have a child who is designated Special Needs, you may qualify for funding.

Benefits for families with children

The Canada Child Benefit is a monthly payment to help families with children under age 18. To qualify, at least 1 parent must be a resident of Canada. Toll-free: 1 800 387-1193
The B.C. Early Childhood Tax Benefit is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help with the cost of raising young children under age 6. See more information on the website.

People with disabilities

People with disabilities may have special needs for housing or jobs. If you have a disability, you can find support programs in your community. Contact Disability Alliance BC.
The B.C. government, Crown agencies, and corporations offer many supports and services to people with disabilities, including financial supports through disability assistance.

Sponsorship breakdown

Some people are sponsored by a family member to come to Canada. Sometimes there are changes or problems in the family. For example, a married couple may separate. If this happens, the sponsor is still responsible for the relative. For more information, contact Legal Aid BC.

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Support for people who are LGBTQ2S+

There are many organizations in B.C. that support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and Two-Spirit individuals. These organizations have activities, information, counselling, and other kinds of help. They can help you in many languages. 
  • In the Vancouver area, contact B.C.’s Queer Resource Centre (Qmunity).
  • LGBTQ2S+ youth can get information and advice from the Pride Education Network.
  • Parents of LGBTQ2S+ children can get information and advice at PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

The Office of the Ombudsperson

The Office of the Ombudsperson can help people solve problems with government services. It is an independent and impartial (not biased) office, part of the B.C. provincial legislature. All services are free.

Gender identity

Gender identity is your personal sense of being a man, a woman, non-binary, or Two- Spirit. The shape of your body, how you look, and the sex you were assigned at birth may not be your gender identity. There are many different ways to describe and talk about gender.
  • Cisgender people have a gender identity that matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Transgender people have a gender identity that does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Gender expression is how you present and show other people your gender, such as what name you use, the clothes you wear, the activities you pursue, and the sound of your voice. It is also the pronouns (he, she, they) people use to describe themselves. In Canada, some people prefer to be described as “they” instead of “he” or “she”.
  • LGBTQ2S+ is short way of referring to people of many different gender and sexual identities. The letters stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Two-Spirit. The + sign shows that there are more identities and communities than listed here.
  • Sexual orientation is about the gender of the people you are sexually or romantically attracted to, the gender of your partner, and the kinds of relationships you have with people of different genders. Some people are only attracted to people with the same gender. Others are attracted to people with a different gender. Some people are attracted to both genders.
  • Non-binary refers to people who don’t see themselves as either a man or as a woman. There are many different non-binary gender identities.
  • Two-Spirit is a term created by Indigenous peoples to talk about a range of Indigenous genders and sexualities.
In Canada, it is illegal to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity. Canadian law also recognizes marriages between people of all genders and supports families of all kinds adopt children. People in Canada have the right to identify and express their gender in their own way. Some people have treatment or surgery to change the way they look.
  • The B.C. government has a gender-equity office. Visit the website for more information.
  • The Canadian government has a Secretariat (department) that works to improve equality for LGBTQ2S+ communities. Visit the website for more information.

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The police

In Canada, the police are separate from the government and the army. The police are part of the community. They protect the people in it. Most communities in B.C. are served by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The RCMP is Canada’s national police organization. Some larger cities have their own local police instead of the RCMP.

Calling the police

Many cities and towns have 2 telephone numbers for the police. One number is for emergencies only – for example, a  fire or robbery. The other number is for non-emergencies – for example, if a neighbor has a noisy party or someone steals your bicycle.
In most communities, the emergency number is 9-1-1. In some very small communities, the number is not 9-1-1. Search online or ask your settlement agency for your local emergency number. You can ask for help in your own language. Tell the person the name of your language. They will find someone to translate.
For more details and a video on how to call 9-1-1, please see the Emergencies section.
You should call the emergency number:
  • if you are in danger
  • if you see someone else in danger
  • if a serious crime has just happened
You should call the non-emergency number:
  • if no one is in danger
  • if time has passed since the crime happened
You can find your community’s non-emergency number by searching online. If you are not sure which number to call, call the emergency number. Tell the police what is happening. They will help you. You can call the police any time, day or night.

The E-Comm website lists emergency phone numbers. It has information in several languages.

Police arrests

The police make sure people follow the law. Police can arrest people who break the law. Police must also obey certain laws. When they arrest people, police officers must say who they are. They must show their identification. They must explain why they are arresting you. They must also tell you what your rights are.
If you are arrested, the police officer may ask for your name and address. You must tell them this. But you do not have to say anything more until you talk to a lawyer. You have the right to talk to a lawyer. If the police arrest you or ask you questions about a crime, they must let you phone a lawyer right away. They must let you talk to the lawyer alone.

If you do not know a lawyer or cannot afford one, contact the Brydges Line. It is run by Legal Aid BC and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Toll-free: 1 866 458-5500
You can also ask the police for the legal aid phone number. The police officer must give you the number and let you call it. If you are arrested, the police must take you to court or release you (let you go) within 24 hours.

Complaints against the police

If you have a complaint against the municipal police, you have a right to say what happened. You can contact the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. Toll-free: 1 877 999-8707
If you have a complaint against the RCMP, you can contact the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.  Toll-free: 1 800 665-6878

Being a witness

A witness is someone who sees something happen, such as a car crash or a crime. Witnesses can give information to police. They can help the police find a criminal or understand who caused an accident.

Witnesses are very important in Canadian law. If you witness a crime or accident, you should tell the police. If you are asked to testify (go to court and say what you saw), you must go. If you see a car crash, you can give the driver your name and phone number. They may need you to tell police what you saw. They may also need you to tell the insurance company or the court. 

The courts

Different courts deal with different kinds of legal problems. The main courts in B.C. are:
  • BC Court of Appeal
  • BC Supreme Court
  • Provincial Court of British Columbia, which has 5 divisions:
    • the criminal division handles criminal law cases
    • the traffic, ticket, and bylaw division handles traffic tickets
    • the family division handles family support, parenting decisions, and protection orders
    • the youth court division handles people from 12 to 17 years old who are charged with a crime
    • the small claims court division handles disagreements about business and money between $5,001 and $35,000
For more information, visit the Provincial Court of British Columbia website.

Civil Resolution Tribunal

The Civil Resolution Tribunal resolves small claims up to $5,000. It also has jurisdiction to resolve certain accident claims up to $50,000.

Going to court

British Columbia courts operate in English, and for certain matters, in French. You can ask for an interpreter to help you communicate.

Young people and the law

Sometimes young people break the law. In Canada, there is a special law for children 12 to 17 years old. It is called the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Young people do not go to the same court as adults. They go to a youth court. If people over 18 break the law, they must go to adult court. Government programs have workers who can talk to families. These programs have different names in different areas. If you or your family need legal advice, contact your local immigrant settlement agency.

Separation and divorce

Sometimes, couples with children separate or divorce. They need to decide how to take care of their children.  sometimes, the court helps parents make decisions about how to care for children. Getting a divorce is a court process, but parents do not always need to go to court. They can get help from Family Justice Centres. People who work in Family Justice Centres have special training in family law. Family Justice Centres are free and confidential. Find a Family Justice Centre near you.
  If you have a low income, you may be able to get free legal advice from a family lawyer over the telephone. Family LawLINE lawyers gives advice about family law issues. To learn more about the Family LawLINE, call Legal Aid BC. Toll-free: 1 866 577-2525

Using a lawyer

If you have a legal problem, you may need a lawyer. Sometimes a lawyer can help you solve a problem before you go to court.

How to find a lawyer

  • Contact the Lawyer Referral Service. This service will give you the name of a lawyer. You can call and make an appointment with the lawyer. The lawyer will talk to you for free for up to 30 minutes. Toll-free: 1 800 663-1919
  • Contact your local immigrant settlement agency. They can help you find these services.

Help if you cannot afford a lawyer

Legal aid is a free service for people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Legal aid can help with some types of criminal law, family law, and immigration law problems. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Legal Aid BC to find out if you are eligible.
Access Pro Bono is a non-profit society.  They help low-income people find volunteer lawyers. Their services are free. 

For more legal information

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