Community Legal Clinic Launches Formal Appeal of Legal Aid Ontario’s Decision to Cut Funding
June 24, 2019
Toronto, ON – The Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (CSALC) announced today that it will file a formal appeal to Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) regarding its decision to cut funding to CSALC.
CSALC is a community legal clinic that provides services to low-income clients from the Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian communities. Established in 1987, CSALC is recognized as a strong advocate for the rights of low-income racialized and immigrant communities in Ontario.
As a result of the $133 million funding cut by the provincial government, LAO has slashed the budget of all community legal clinics, including CSALC. On paper, the cut to CSALC’s funding is 1.2% of its annual budget. However, as part of its “cost savings” initiative, LAO has also announced that it will not provide any in-year increases including lease-related costs.
In the case of CSALC, its current lease will expire on September 30, 2019, and is facing a 250% increase in rent from October 1, 2019 onwards. CSALC had made a special request to LAO to help cover the increase in rent for the remainder of the year, but its request was denied.
“On paper, we only get a small percentage cut, but because LAO has refused to cover our rent increase, we have to lay off staff just to pay for our rent beginning on October 1, 2019,” said Avvy Go, Clinic Director of CSALC. “While Premier Ford and the former Attorney General have repeatedly stated that there will be no cuts to direct client service, we know that with fewer clinic staff, our clients will receive less legal services. Despite the cuts, LAO has directed legal clinics to maintain the same level of client services. The result will be that our remaining staff will have to take on an even greater workload in order for CSALC to meet this unreasonable directive,” added Go.
LAO has said that its funding decision is guided by certain principles and aimed to “reduce the impact to particularly disadvantaged client groups (e.g. Indigenous and racialized people). Yet, with the decision not to fund the increase in rent, racialized clients served by CSALC will be impacted as they will have access to fewer legal caseworkers.
“Just over two years ago, CSALC received additional funding from LAO to expand our services from GTA to province wide,” said Jason Huang-Kung, Vice-President of CSALC. “If the Government continues to cut funding to LAO, which in turn passes the cuts to clinics, we may have to stop serving clients from outside of the GTA,” explained Huang-Kung.
In the coming week, CSALC will be filing a formal request to LAO to reconsider its decision to not pay the increased rent. CSALC will also seek to meet with the new Attorney General to discuss the impact of the cuts on all community legal clinics.
Currently with a staff of nine, CSALC each year serves about 2,700 clients through direct services (including legal assistance, advice, referral, and representation) conducts at least 50 workshops, and disseminates legal education materials for thousands of clients and community members. As all CSALC staff are able to communicate in at least one language spoken by the clinic’s clients, they are able to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services with minimal interpretation costs.
CSALC also conducts law reform activities through test case litigation and lobbying. It has appeared hundreds of time before committees at the Provincial Legislature, the Parliament of Canada, and the Senate. Based on its long-established track record on human rights work, CSALC was granted consultative status as a Non-Government Organization with the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2013 – a status it has recently renewed.
For more information, contact: Avvy Go, Clinic Director, CSALC at 416-971-9674 or at email@example.com.