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July 4, 2019

The Ontario Government’s April 11th budget reduced provincial funding for legal aid by 35 per cent. As a result, on June 12th Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) cut the clinic system’s budget by almost $15M. This means that 20 clinics will deal with budget decreases of between 6 and 45 per cent, while other clinics face smaller cuts. Many central supports for clinics have been cut or eliminated. All clinics have been directed to no longer “prioritize” doing systemic advocacy work (law reform, community development) on behalf of their communities and clients.

This is the most significant attack on community legal services in Ontario’s history. It is particularly devastating for those clinics and communities that have been especially targeted for cuts.

We have three speciality worker-focused clinics, of which all represent injured workers in the compensation system and one of them also represents workers in Health and Safety issues. While these clinics are located in Toronto, all three of them have a provincial mandate to provide this quality public service to workers all over Ontario. These three worker-focused clinics are facing cuts from 22 to 30 per cent retroactive to April 1st of this year. The cuts imposed the clinics in the spring budget will have a significant impact on the services clinics can provide to injured workers.

These cuts clearly demonstrate that the assurances of the Premier and the Attorney General that the legal aid cuts would not impact on front line services or jobs were wrong and unfounded and will only increase the loss of services to the most vulnerable Ontarians.

For the last 50 years, Ontario’s legal aid system has assisted thousands of low-income Ontarians. Legal aid clinics and lawyers provide assistance to people with disabilities, injured workers, tenants, new Canadians, and victims of environmental disasters. Community legal clinics provide an excellent and cost-effective way to help the disadvantaged.

It is up to us to fight to stop these attacks on our clinic system. What can you do?

  1. Sign the online petition at powerofmany.ca.
  2. Lobby your conservative MPP.
  3. Join the Power of Many and hold a rally outside your conservative MPP office. Posters can be found here.
  4. Write a letter to Premier Doug Ford. Sample letter can be found here (word version). Send a blind copy (BCC) to Laurie Hardwick, OFL at lhardwick@ofl.ca
  5. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Sample letters can be found here (word version) and here (word version).
  6. Join the demo at Attorney General’s office on Thursday, July 11 at noon, 20 Bell Farm Road, Unit 14, in Barrie.

COPE 343

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  • Injured Workers/WCB
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