Low-income and disadvantaged Ontarians are asking why the province’s April budget is targeting their access to justice? The provincial government has cut funding to Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) by 36%. Because of this, LAO is proposing to cut the budget for Ontario’s community clinic system by 16% ($15 million), with more cuts planned for the next two years. This is a massive cut.
Community legal clinics are already lean, efficient operations with no administrative fat to trim. Most clinics have 5 to 10 staff members who all provide front line services to clients. So the size of cuts announced mean that – despite Premier Ford’s often-repeated promises of no cuts to front line services/jobs – these clinic services will be drastically reduced. Hundreds of thousands in rural and urban communities across the province rely on clinics for legal advice, education on rights and individual representation in courts and tribunals when facing a range of problems that affect their most basic needs. Many of those affected face already multiple barriers to justice.
And as the Alliance for Sustainable Legal Aid has pointed out in a recent letter to the Attorney General, in addition to the problem for people who will not have access to legal representation, there are repercussions for the entire justice system. “Already strained by growing demand and years of underfunding”, it will not be able to handle the increase in people without legal representation.
We are calling on the Attorney General to make a commitment to access to justice, and to respect the commitment of her government to not decrease services for low income Ontarians, and to confirm that funding for community clinics will not be decreased.
How can you help to have the cuts reversed?
Join the Stop the Cuts: Access to Justice for All campaign ( (hashtag #Justice4All) and find details on how to:
- Send a personal email or make phone call to Premier Doug Ford, Attorney-General Caroline Mulroney and your local MPP (or use the form provided)
- If you’re an injured worker or other client of a community legal clinic and you feel comfortable telling your own story in brief, let your MPP know how you were helped by a clinic
Take part in the Public Forum, Thursday May 16
Find out the latest information on the funding reductions to legal aid and community legal clinics; discuss ways to preserve access to justice for all (#Justice4All) and the community legal clinic lifeline for low-income Ontarians
More about what community legal clinics do and why they matter:
- Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario. Ontario’s Community Legal Clinics: 2018 Annual Report.
- … 2019. Fact Sheet: Ontario’s Community Legal Clinics
- TVO Ontario. 2019 April 19. The Agenda: Ontario Legal Aid Funding Cuts (video). Discussion with Avy Go, clinic director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic and Patricia Hughes, former executive director of the Law Commission of Ontario