On Wednesday, September 18, OCUFA President Rahul Sapra wrote to Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey to urge him to reverse the cuts to Legal Aid Ontario and to commit to protecting legal aid funding moving forward.
Legal Aid Ontario provides essential services for the most vulnerable in our province, such as injured workers, survivors of domestic violence, persons on social assistance, and other low-income and marginalized Ontarians. Faculty across Ontario are deeply concerned that the government’s decision to drastically cut the Legal Aid Ontario budget by 30 per cent will undermine access to justice, which is a fundamental right and a key tenant of democracy, for these vulnerable citizens. Faculty are particularly concerned about the impact of these cuts on women, Indigenous Peoples, and racialized persons who are disproportionately represented in Ontario’s low income population.
Some of the legal clinics that have received the most drastic cuts are those that have longstanding partnerships with Ontario law schools. Due to the cuts, the future of these partnerships is in doubt. The cuts to Legal Aid Ontario will also negatively impact legal education in the province. Student legal aid clinics are an integral part of Legal Aid Ontario, where law students provide free legal services to marginalized persons as part of their studies and training. The experiential learning law students are exposed to at legal aid clinics is irreplaceable in its value.
Sapra called on the Attorney General to reinstate legal aid funding and refrain from future cuts to Legal Aid Ontario.