Legal Aid Cuts Deepest For Most Vulnerable Community Members

By Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay

In the wake of recent high-profile provincial funding cuts to health care and education, this past April’s $133 million funding cut to Legal Aid Ontario has garnered considerably less attention. While most people can relate to prospects of diminished health care services or underfunded education on a personal level, the services offered by legal aid are generally less well understood, and cutbacks are therefore less threatening in the minds of the average Ontarian.

For most, the name “legal aid,” does not bring to mind two groups of citizens for whom legal aid is a necessity: those with disabilities, and those at risk of losing their homes. Local legal aid clinics continue to be very active in dealing with these client groups and slashed provincial funding places these citizens at risk.

Photo byAlexandra Gruca-Macaulay

As Gary Stein, Executive Director of Community Legal Services of Ottawa (CLSO), explained, legal aid clinics are part of an integrated system of support that helps the most vulnerable people in our communities and often deal with disability and housing issues.

As Stein observed, “small things can make for big problems.” He cited paperwork and bureaucratic forms as a common trigger for problems that often require the support of community legal aid.

Last year, according to Stein, CLSO worked with an Ottawa resident who had been homeless, but who had qualified for a subsidy under Ottawa’s Housing and Poverty Reduction Plan. However, the resident in question had learning disabilities and literacy problems and did not understand what was required under the Plan. As a result, the paperwork was not submitted, and the housing subsidy did not materialize. Eviction and the threat of a return to homelessness loomed. CLSO was able to restore the rent subsidy, resolve the issue with the resident’s landlord, and ultimately keep a roof over a vulnerable person’s head.

Ottawa’s lower-income population is facing a housing crisis. In Old Ottawa East, the Regional Group has committed financial support for affordable housing.

According to Vasu Naik, an Old Ottawa East resident and CLSO board member, legal aid plays an important role in keeping people settled within the larger context of providing equitably priced housing. Recognizing the key link between access to housing and legal aid and expecting further burden on Ottawa’s Social Services and Housing Sector resulting from the legal aid cuts, Ottawa City Council voted in June to have Mayor Jim Watson write to the Ford government seeking to have provincial funding for community legal aid clinics restored. As Naik explained, “remove one nut or bolt from the legal aid system, and everyone will feel the effects.”

facebooktwitterby feather
Filed in: Front Page, News, Political Pages

You might like:

LRT rolls at last: after a very long wait, we now get short waits LRT rolls at last: after a very long wait, we now get short waits
Sharing Lunch WIth Carol Workun: The Mainstreeter Interview Sharing Lunch WIth Carol Workun: The Mainstreeter Interview
Street-involved Youth Paint It Up!  Big Bird Finds a New Neighbourhood Nest Street-involved Youth Paint It Up! Big Bird Finds a New Neighbourhood Nest
New Vision Unveiled for Aberdeen Plaza at Lansdowne Park New Vision Unveiled for Aberdeen Plaza at Lansdowne Park
© 2019 Mainstreeter. All rights reserved. XHTML / CSS Valid.
Proudly designed by Theme Junkie.