The Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario calls on government to rescind cuts to legal aid

TORONTO, April 29, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- 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 and advocacy.”

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 society.

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 announced.”

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.

Media contact:   Lenny Abramowicz, Executive Director, ACLCO
                            416-204-5380 or