Legal Aid clinics across Ontario have taken to the streets to protest planned cuts by the provincial government.
The Windsor-Essex Bilingual Legal Clinic was one of 69 similar organizations province-wide participating in a Day of Action, to offer free legal advice and call attention to cuts that may impede their ability to help low-income people access legal services.
A tent was set up at Charles Clark Square in downtown Windsor, where officials were informing people of the services the legal clinic provides, offering free legal advice, and most of all, pointing out how cuts will have a negative impact on their ability to help those who otherwise could not afford the services of a lawyer.
"Thankfully, this year, we're still trying to evaluate the impact of the cuts," said Amy Lavoie, senior staff lawyer for the legal clinic. "But the reality is that any time you're impacting funding for legal clinics, you're impacting direct services."
These services include representation for clients dealing with the Ontario Disability Support Program, Ontario Works, human rights concerns, employment law issues, and those with matters pending in small claims court.
According to figures provided by the legal clinic, roughly 20 clinics across Ontario could face cuts ranging from six per cent to 45 per cent. All other facilities may face smaller cuts, but Lavoie said these will hurt client services also.
Lavoie, however, is encouraged by the government's announcement Monday that changes in its controversial funding model are coming to the Ontario Autism Program. She is hopeful that will rub off on the province's community legal aid offices.
"I think the fact that there's been a significant shift in his [Premier Doug Ford's] cabinet, he's moved ministers around to different portfolios... we're hopeful that it's a trend where the government is acknowledging that 'You know, maybe we didn't do it right,'" said Lavoie.
Complete information on the efforts to reverse the planned legal aid cuts is available on the campaign's official website.
An information tent is set up by the Windsor-Essex Bilingual Legal Clinic in Charles Clark Square in Windsor, as part of the province-wide Day of Action, July 30, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.