Kinds of Advocate
An advocate can be you yourself, a friend or family member, someone in your community with experience with advocacy or a licensed professional.
Sometimes self-advocates act completely on their own, and sometimes they get help from other people to make it possible to be self-represented. If a lack of information is the biggest barrier for you in advocating for yourself, you can ask for help in researching information or understanding how a system works. A loved one or a community peer can give you moral support.
Informal advocates are people you trust them to help you. Informal advocates usually can’t make decisions for you, but they can ask questions, suggest possible ways to solve a problem, challenge a decision and educate someone else on your behalf.
Community advocates are not professional advocates, but they have experience advocating for other people, and sometimes have specialized advocacy training. Like informal advocates, community advocates usually can’t make decisions for you but can attend formal meetings with you to provide you with information, advice and support.
In BC, there are laws determining what a specific professional can and can’t do. For example, a lawyer can do some kinds of advocacy that can’t be done by another type of professional. When a professional is legally representing you (for example, in court) they are still acting on your behalf and under your instructions. Professional assistance is often helpful when a system is so complicated that you don’t have a good chance of getting what you need without a professional to help you navigate through it.