Ottawa/Queen's Park



legal aid

The Ford government introduced legislation today that literally removes access to justice from Legal Aid Ontario’s purpose. In tandem with their 30% cut to Legal Aid Ontario in last April’s budget, the union representing Legal Aid Ontario Lawyers calls this the biggest attack on legal aid in Ontario’s history.

Introduced in the Ontario legislature this afternoon, the so-called Smarter and Stronger Justice Act is an attack on legal representation for the poorest Ontarians. Beyond removing “access to justice” and “low income individuals” from the purpose of the Legal Aid Services Act, the legislation would radically alter Legal Aid Ontario’s mandate.

Existing legislation requires Legal Aid Ontario “shall” provide representation to low-income people in four areas of law: criminal, family, clinic and mental health. Under the Ford government’s new bill, Legal Aid Ontario only “may” provide representation for those and other types of law.

“This change in law might sound like semantics but for thousands of poor Ontarians turning ‘shall’ into ‘may’ is the difference between being guaranteed a lawyer and losing their right to legal representation,” said Dana Fisher, a Legal Aid Ontario lawyer and Vice President of the Society of United Professionals’ Legal Aid Ontario Lawyers’ Local.

“Combined with the Ford government’s severe and cruel Legal Aid Ontario cut, this bill amounts to passing the buck to Legal Aid Ontario to implement cuts without the agency being constrained by a legal mandate that protects the vulnerable people who need legal aid.”

To try to paper over the devastating news for access to justice in Ontario the Attorney General also announced the government will not implement the further cuts planned to Legal Aid Ontario over the next two years.

“Not hurting access to justice more than they have already is the least this government could do,” said Fisher. “Announcing this today is a cynical ploy to distract from the extraordinary damage this bill will do to Ontario’s legal system and the most vulnerable people in that system.”

source: media release, Society of United Professionals. The Society of United Professionals is the union of choice for more than 8,000 Ontario professionals, including engineers, lawyers, scientists, supervisors and other types of professionals. 


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