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Legal Aid Cuts are an Attack on Ontario’s Most Vulnerable

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas

OPSEU is demanding that the Ford government reverse its cuts to Legal Aid Ontario (LAO). The cuts announced in the budget are an assault on some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Ontario. The 40 per cent cut to LAO’s budget over two years will have devastating impacts.

Through its legal certificate programs and legal clinic system, LAO provides direct services to people who need help preserving the basic essentials of life, including:

  • Tenants facing illegal evictions;
  • Women fleeing domestic violence;
  • Families and children accessing legal services including criminal legal support;
  • Precarious newcomers who are exploited by their employers;
  • Refugee claimants facing deportation to unsafe countries;
  • People with disabilities and mental health struggles who have been denied social assistance;
  • Timely access to legal advice and representation in court;
  • People who have been injured on the job and have been unjustly denied workers’ compensation
  • And more.

The cuts also eliminate provincially-funded refugee and immigration law services, which will quite literally put people’s lives in danger.  Any cuts to these services will mean that people living in Ontario will be made homeless, be deported, and they won’t be able to put food on their tables.

Access to justice is not simply a buzzword; it is a fundamental tenet of a democracy. But taking away services that help marginalized people defend their rights means access to justice is being eroded for those who need it the most.

Cuts of this magnitude cannot be made without eliminating frontline jobs at LAO and the legal clinics – meaning Premier Doug Ford is breaking his promise that not one job would be lost.

OPSEU calls on Ford to reverse the cuts to legal aid.  Our members are committed to the communities they serve, and we will organize across Ontario to beat back this attack.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President