The Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA) strongly opposes the Ford government’s decision to cut legal aid funding by $133 million, representing over 30% of Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO) budget. ACLA also denounces the government’s directive to prohibit provincial funding for immigration and refugee law services.
Canada’s refugee and immigration system is complex and nearly impossible to navigate without legal representation. Without legal counsel, refugees and migrants face a higher chance of deportation and risk of persecution, torture, detention or death.
The Ford government’s decisions have also resulted in deep cuts to community legal clinic services. On June 12th Legal Aid Ontario cut the budget for Community Legal Clinics by almost $15M. Community legal clinics are independent, community based non-profit agencies. Clinics help the most vulnerable people in our province to fight for their rights. This massive cut to funding for community legal clinics will mean reduced front line services.
In Toronto, most clinics have seen cuts between 10% to 45% to their budgets. While the impact of these decisions will be felt by all low-income Ontarians, regardless of their status in Canada, these cuts will disproportionately impact racialized and Indigenous communities, many of whom already face multiple and intersecting barriers. Community legal clinics provide critical support for people to come together and address their concerns collectively through organizing, community development, advocacy and law reform. Clinics have significantly improved the lives of millions of people across this province because they address systemic deficiencies and are rooted in their communities.
According to the Association of Community Legal Clinics (ACLCO) the cuts announced by the Ford government represent the most significant attack on the clinic system in Ontario’s history. Legal clinics in Ontario help women fleeing domestic violence, seniors and people with mental health challenges, tenants facing evictions, injured workers, migrants and refugees.
Our communities are already dealing with this government’s clawback to minimum wage, health care, and education. Now the government is cutting the legal support that the most vulnerable Ontarians rely on. These cuts are a direct attack on low-income and marginalized community members facing violence, eviction, inadequate income and precarious immigration status.
On July 30, 2019, communities around this province are mobilizing for access to justice. ACLA members will take part in the province wide day of action against legal aid cuts.
ACLA calls on Premier Doug Ford and Attorney General Doug Downey to immediately restore legal aid funding, reverse the cuts to legal clinics, and commit to long-term sustainable funding for legal aid in Ontario.
Join an event near you on July 30 and be part of the mobilization to stop the cuts and save legal aid. See www.stoplegalaidcuts.ca and https://aclco.org/day-of-action