Toronto, April 30, 2019 - The Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario
(ACLCO) is extremely concerned about announced funding cuts to Legal Aid Ontario
(LAO) and urges the Attorney General to reconsider these cuts. Community legal clinics
will not be able to maintain the services they currently provide to low income Ontarians
given the magnitude of these cuts.
"The Premier has said there will be no cuts to front line services," said Lenny
Abramowicz, ACLCO Executive Director. "But LAO's implementation of the Attorney
General's cuts makes it clear that service cuts are unavoidable. These cuts will
be devastating to the legal clinic system in Ontario and the direct services they
provide that ensure low-income Ontarians can meet their most basic needs."
Legal clinics received an email from LAO today indicating that $15 million will
be cut from their budgets in this fiscal year, which represents a 16% cut in current
funding. This follows on the 2019 Ontario Budget announcement of a 30% cut to LAO's
funding in this year.
"Community legal clinics already operate on capped budgets, providing cost certainty
to government," said ACLCO Co-chair Trudy McCormick. "Clinics are small, local offices,
operating with minimal administration and no bureaucracy, making them flexible and
client-oriented. All legal clinic staff work directly with or on behalf of low income
clients. Simply put, these cuts will result in the loss of front line client service
Legal clinics provide legal aid services to Ontario's most vulnerable residents.
This vital work is aimed at ensuring that people with low incomes are able to access
the benefits and services they are entitled to. This allows them to meet their most
basic needs, such as securing or maintaining housing or income support benefits,
giving them the ability to live healthy lives, in dignity, as active members of
Legal clinics are rooted in the communities they serve, using limited resources
to provide often life-saving services that are most needed by that community, while
working closely with other local agencies to ensure clients are well-served. Local
clinics serve geographic communities while specialty clinics serve specific groups
such as people with disabilities, injured workers, racialized communities, the elderly,
or children and youth. Client surveys indicate very high satisfaction with the work
done by clinics. International research shows that investments in legal clinics
reduces costs to the legal system and across multiple government programs.
"Clinics provide cost-effective access to justice to hundreds of thousands of low
income Ontarians every year," said ACLCO Co-chair Gary Newhouse. "The ACLCO has
always been ready to work with government, LAO and our justice partners to identify
and implement improvements to services and access to justice for low-income Ontarians.
But improvements in services will be impossible with the budget cuts that have been
The ACLCO is the representative body of Ontario's community legal clinics, acts
in a leadership role to advocate for sustainable legal aid services, and is recognized
throughout Canada and internationally as expert in community-based poverty law services.