The provincial government’s recent budget made cuts to a number of public programs and services, which will hurt low-income people in Ontario.
It also includes a massive 30% cut to legal aid funding. And that’s in this year alone.
A cut of this magnitude is going to be devastating to low-income people’s ability to access legal aid services across Ontario.
On Monday, community legal clinics, which are funded by Legal Aid Ontario, received an email that gave us notice of a $15 million cut to clinic budgets this year.
There are still no details about what exactly will be cut. But we know that, despite the Premier’s promises that no services will be lost, a cut of this magnitude will inevitably mean eliminating services to communities.
We need you to take action now. Stop the Cuts!
Community legal clinics are the backbone of ensuring access to justice for low-income people in Ontario.
The work we do is aimed at ensuring that people with low incomes are able to access the benefits, services and legal protections they are entitled to. This allows them to meet their most basic needs, which makes them more able to live healthy lives in dignity and be active members of society.
Legal clinics help people access OW and ODSP benefits and appeal if they’re denied, support them when they’re being wrongfully evicted, advise them on how to ensure they get what they’re entitled to if they’re injured at work, help them with refugee claims and immigration issues, work with them to ensure their employment rights at work are being upheld, and a multitude of other issues.
Our offices are small with minimal administration and no bureaucracy. We are rooted in our communities, whether neighbourhood- or issue-based. All staff work directly with or on behalf of people with low incomes in our communities, serving needs identified by our communities.
Studies show that every dollar invested in legal aid services results in savings of six dollars in other government programs and services.
And despite what the Premier and Attorney General have said to justify this cut, our workloads have increased significantly in the last few years. Even the Auditor General agrees.
Ominously, Monday’s email seems to prioritize direct services to individuals, which could mean the $15 million cut may be focused on systemic advocacy work – which is exactly what specialty clinics like ISAC do.
Fixing policy and law problems at the systemic level means a bigger bang for the buck. It also means that fewer individuals have to get legal support to resolve a problem that affects more people than just them. At ISAC, we do this through test case litigation, policy advocacy and community organizing. All of this work is under threat.
A $15 million cut will inevitably mean that low-income people in Ontario will lose access to the important advocacy services that ISAC and our sister legal clinics across the province provide.
Access to Justice for All! Legal clinics and the low-income people we serve need your help now.
We are calling on you, our subscribers, community members and partners, to take action to help preserve access to justice for low-income Ontarians.
Here’s what you can do, and thank you!
1. Write to the Premier, the Attorney General and your local MPP
Send an email as an individual or on behalf of your organization.
Express your strong concern about the cuts to legal aid and the impact that the 30% cut to Legal Aid Ontario’s budget is going to have on community legal clinics. Tell them why you support community legal clinics and legal aid in general.
Tell them you want them to reverse this devastating cut.
Make sure to contact your local MPP as soon as possible. Putting pressure on as many MPPs as possible will have the most impact.
See below for contact information.
2. Encourage and Support your members, clients and communities to take action
Share the information about the legal aid cut with your constituencies – whether you have an organizational membership, connection with various community members, email lists, etc.
Tell them why you think they should support legal aid generally and legal clinics in particular.
Ask them to take the time to send their own email to the Premier, Attorney General, and their MPP – and share the contact information we’ve provided below.
3. Take the Premier up on his offer to call him for help
You will probably get their voicemail – if you do, leave a message calling on them to reverse the cuts to legal aid generally and to legal clinics in particular.
See below for contact information.
One pager handout with Take Action!
- Use the messages in our message above or in this document: Key Messages - May 2019
How to contact the Premier, Attorney General, and your MPP
- Contact information sheet: Premier AG And MPP Contact Info - May 2019
Background information about legal clinics:
- Fact sheet: http://aclco.org/download/1451/
- Overview: https://aclco.org/legal-clinics/overview/
- Clinic work: https://aclco.org/legal-clinics/clinic-work/