Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) released this week a summary of consultations on its racialized communities strategy, aimed at helping racialized clients get the services they need. The LAO has been meeting since 2016 with legal aid applicants and clients, lawyers, community legal clinics and other community agencies to talk about issues faced by racialized communities when trying to access legal services. This initiative follows earlier consultations on strategies to address needs of clients experiencing domestic violence and to improve access for clients with mental health or addiction issues.
In their “Current Assessment of Legal Aid in Ontario” (Journal of Law and Social Policy, v. 29, 2018), Frederick Zemans* and Justin Amaral explore developments in the province’s legal aid system over the past two decades, examining the impact of chronic underfunding on client access and delivery of services, and LAO initiatives in response to cutbacks and the potential role of new technologies. The authors highlight the need to gather reliable data to properly evaluate the benefit of these new services and technologies – remaining mindful that access to legal services and information is not necessarily the same as “access to justice.”
(*professor emeritus of Osgoode Hall Law School, York University; founding director of Parkdale Community Legal Services – Ontario’s first community-based legal aid clinic )