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The need for legal clinic services

As a result of the spring provincial budget, several of Ontario’s community legal clinics have lost a large amount of their funding. And the budget announced more cuts to come. This leaves people in communities across Ontario, particularly those who live on low incomes, at risk of losing access to critical legal services to help them address their housing, income support, and other life-affecting problems.

Are people who come to you for help at risk of being evicted? Not getting extra pay for working holidays? Facing the risk of deportation? People facing these problems need to know that they have rights that may protect them, and steps they can take to do so. This is an essential building block of a fair and equal Canadian justice system.

Community legal clinics – independent, community based non-profit agencies located in towns and cities across Ontario – provide essential legal services for people who live with low incomes or face other disadvantages. Their array of services includes summary advice, full advice and representation, community workshops, and community development. It’s a holistic model proven effective and efficient in supporting access to basic human needs for vulnerable communities in Ontario.

CLEO is also a community legal clinic, but we are the only clinic that works exclusively in the field of public legal education and information. We embrace the potential of plain language legal information – information that the intended users need, and can understand and act on. We work to make the information that we develop easy to understand, and we’re conscious of the barriers that people may face in trying to act on the information – including personal resources, language, communication, and digital literacy and access.

This is the bread and butter of CLEO’s daily work, and we’re passionate about it. Curious, though: we do not adhere to the adage, “information is power”, or at least not without modification.

Information is, indeed, a prerequisite to “power” - but information, on its own, can be a dead end. Building a state of the art website full of good information may not help a tenant facing eviction, a recently arrived person seeking refugee status to avoid torture in their home country, or a young person who was injured on the job but is having trouble accessing workers’ compensation or other disability-related supports.

Good information and practical tools can take some people far along the path in advocating for themselves in a legal process. But, as documented in numerous research reports, many vulnerable people need more – a helping hand, at minimum, and, in many cases, help from a legal professional in their community.

This is why CLEO’s information includes extensive information about how people can contact their local legal clinic. And that is the reason for this blog post today.

Please support your community legal clinic today by sending a note to your MPP and to Ontario’s Premier asking them to reverse the recent cuts and stop future cuts.

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