OPSEU members from around the province took part in a day of action against the Ford government’s deep cuts to Legal Aid and legal clinics in Ontario. OPSEU members and people affected by the cuts sent a united message to Attorney-General Doug Downey demanding the reversal of cuts to Legal Aid.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the turnout to the day of action events across Ontario shows how much public concern there is to the Ford government’s wrongheaded approach. “Ontarians believe in justice for all, but people who can’t afford legal representation will not get a fair shake,” said Thomas. “That is why it’s so important that the Ford government stops these unfair cuts.”
On June 12, the Ford government slashed Legal Aid Ontario’s budget by 30 per cent representing $133 million this year. The cuts are expected to reach $164 million by next year.
In Toronto, OPSEU members working for Legal Aid and legal clinics marched with clients and concerned citizens through the street chanting “Doug Ford says he is for the people. We are the people.”
Toronto’s Parkdale Community Clinic has seen a funding cut of 50 per cent. It was evicted from its long-standing home and forced to move into two separate locations, one of which is an inaccessible church basement.
Scarborough Community Legal Services workers and clients rallied outside of Conservative MPP Raymond Cho’s office. The clinic workers attempted to hand deliver letters, outlining the community’s concerns regarding the cuts. They rang and knocked on Cho’s door, only to be ignored.
“The cuts to Legal Aid and the legal clinics are heartless and cruel,” said Aidan MacDonald, President of OPSEU Local 5118. “Without access to legal clinics, vulnerable people in Ontario will become homeless, be deported, and be made destitute.
“The cuts must be reversed because when you cut legal clinics, you aren’t just taking away services, you’re destroying communities.”
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh joined the rally that took place in Thunder Bay.
“It moved me to hear stories on how much our community needs these services, and at the same time it inspired me to continue the fight against Ford” said Erin Smith-Rice, Executive Board Member, Region 7