Two recent letters speak powerfully on the impact of the legal aid funding cuts on injured workers and ordinary people in Ontario. The first, a group letter (July 23) from six private bar lawyers specializing in workers’ compensation law to newly appointed Attorney General Doug Downey, calls on the Minister as Ontario’s chief law officer responsible for the administration of justice to reverse the cuts. The second is a response (July 23) by the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups (ONIWG) to some misperceptions in a letter received from the Legal Aid Ontario Board.
This should not be acceptable to a ‘government for the people’
Lawyers Peter Bird, Michael Green, Jacqueline Kotyk, Ellen Lipes, Gary Newhouse and Antony Singleton draw the Attorney General’s attention to the impact of deep cuts targeting the three community legal clinics identified as “worker-focussed.” Clinics will be forced to turn away clients who, unable to afford a lawyer, desperately need their services. The result will be even longer wait times and push many, unable to access legal help with their WSIB claim for benefits, into poverty and onto taxpayer-funded social assistance. New restrictions placed on the use of funds means these clinics can also no longer do the important law reform and advocacy work which benefits thousands of ordinary people. The letter asks the Attorney General to restore the funding to legal aid and strengthen the Clinics’ ability to help ordinary Ontarians … [read full letter]
The ripple effects of reduced funding will cause more strain across the system
While appreciating the response by LAO Board Chair, Charles Harnick, to ONIWG’s initial letter of July 5, ONIWG president Janet Paterson corrects some inaccuracies. She notes that the three specialty workers compensation clinics are, outside of a few geographic catchments, the only source of legal aid assistance to most injured workers across Ontario. Cuts to funding will only worsen an existing shortage of front line services in Toronto and throughout the province that are available to help injured workers navigate, while struggling with work-related disability, the complex compensation claim system. Under the community clinic model, these “worker clinics” provide a vital, trusted source of support and education at a time of great vulnerability. Arguing that LAO has a role to play in protecting the system and preserving its integrity, ONIWG urges the restoration of funding to all of the specialty clinics, including the three injured worker clinics … [read full letter]