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Port Stanley News RSS Feed  News Stop the cuts to funding Legal Clinics and Legal Aid

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Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic
Stop the cuts to funding Legal Clinics and Legal Aid

The Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic is joining with colleagues in the community legal clinic system in a Day of Action on July 30, 2019. On that day throughout Ontario, legal clinics and their allies will be involved in activities to highlight the harm being done to Legal Aid and the legal clinic system as a result of cuts to Legal Aid Ontario’s funding. Premier Doug Ford’s spring budget has cut funding to Legal Aid Ontario by $133 million, which is 30% of LAO’s budget, retroactive to April 1, 2019. The 30% LAO budget cut has already resulted in a direct negative impact on the Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic and the services we provide as well as other community legal clinics. The operating budget for the Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic was reduced by 8%. The clinic is having to try to find ways to maintain current services in spite of the cuts. Some clinics had their budgets cut by 25-45% and are laying off front-line staff.

The Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic is committed to upholding the rights of low-income residents of Elgin and Oxford Counties. We improve the quality of life of those living in poverty by providing legal advice and representation of low-income residents and public legal education. We have made a difference in maintaining and improving housing for our residents. We have assisted social assistance recipients with regard to benefits, including moving the disabled from Ontario Works to Ontario Disability Support. The latter not only helps the recipients but businesses in the area where they spend their increased monthly income. More recently we have helped our Indigenous community to better connect with a justice system that has often failed them in the past through the Indigenous Justice Program. Our shared employment law lawyer has been successful in getting thousands of dollars for low-income employees due to them.

Research has shown that there is a benefit to the community of $6 for every $1 spent on legal aid. This can include landlords’ getting paid rent that they are owed by tenants who were helped by legal clinics. Local stores benefit from the disabled having more money to spend when they receive disability benefits. Other research shows that the low income community use the expensive health care system more often than others due to poor housing and insufficient income. With the help of legal clinics to help in those areas, it can result in less use of the health care system, saving money to taxpayers. An article written recently by the retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada made it clear that decreased funding to legal aid detrimentally affects access to justice in Canada.

The Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic provides public legal education to the residents of Elgin and Oxford. Over the years we have spoken to hundreds of groups about the areas of law in which we practice. At any given point in time, the Clinic has between 400 and 500 open files on which its staff are working on behalf of clients. In a given year, the Clinic provides summary legal advice to over 1000 residents of Elgin and Oxford. Since the clinic opened its doors in 2002, it has provided representation to more than 5,000 residents of the two counties.

On July 30th, if residents have questions about the legal clinic system and what we do at the Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic, we are inviting the public to drop by our main office at 98 Centre Street, St. Thomas, to learn about us between 9:00 to 12:00 or 1:00-4:00. The budget cuts to Legal Aid Ontario by the former Attorney General, Caroline Mulroney are having a significant impact on legal clinics’ ability to provide legal services to Ontario’s most vulnerable residents. Further cuts expected next year will devastating. We continue calling on Premier Ford and now the new Attorney General Doug Downey to make a commitment to access to justice; to respect the commitment of their government to not decrease front line services; and to address the harm being done as funding for community legal-aid clinics is being decreased.

Kenneth J. Brooks
Executive Director
Barrister & Solicitor
Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic
98 Centre Street
St Thomas, ON N5R 2Z7
Telephone: (519)633-2638
Toll free: 1-866-611-2311
Website: www.eolc.ca

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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 July 2019 18:53:23 PM EST

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