Legal aid cuts prompt Ontario-wide day of action

Click to play video: 'Protests against legal aid cuts happen across Ontario on day of action'
Protests against legal aid cuts happen across Ontario on day of action
WATCH: Protests against legal aid cuts happen across Ontario on day of action – Jul 30, 2019

A province-wide day of action saw many Ontarians rallying against cuts against legal aid services announced by the Doug Ford government earlier this year.

More than 40 events took place on Tuesday — ranging from protests to events discussing the changes — after budget cuts were imposed by the government earlier this year.

Legal Aid Ontario provides services to those who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer. The cuts include slashing Legal Aid funding by 30 per cent, or $133 million. Assistance with refugee and immigration cases are being impacted.

READ MORE: Despite budget cuts, Ford ‘guarantees’ anyone who needs legal aid will get it

Suganthine Sivakumar said she has benefited from legal aid services in the past.

“I am able to hire a lawyer for my case to protect my son,” she said, adding the cuts will create difficulties for families trying to navigate the legal system.

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“It will be very hard for us. We are not earning too much money and as a single mom, it’s very hard for us to work two or three jobs to get enough money for our life and lawyer fees.”

READ MORE: Lawyers brace for ‘demoralizing’ Legal Aid cuts

Michaela Beder, a Toronto-based psychiatrist, said she works with many people from marginalized communities and that the cuts will directly impact those people.

“People who have difficulties with their immigration status, as well as people who have severe mental illness – who are often experiencing homelessness and criminalization — these cuts are going to target people all over Ontario who are already very vulnerable,” she said.

READ MORE: London lawyer reacts to Legal Aid Ontario funding cuts

People protested in front of Ford’s constituency office in Etobicoke Tuesday morning, asking for the cuts to be reversed.

“We want to come here to send a message to the premier,” said Avvy Go, clinic director at the Chinese and Southeast Asian legal clinic.

“[We want] to tell him to not only stop the cuts, but to reverse the cuts that he has already done.”
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Global News contacted the Attorney General’s office who said: “Ontario’s legal aid system is decades old and we are the first government to take on the vitally important task of fixing it.”

“We are working with partners in Ontario’s legal aid system to protect what matters most by ensuring that in Ontario’s dire fiscal situation, every available dollar is dedicated to front-line services rather than outdated bureaucracies and unchecked windfalls for lawyers. We need lawyers and other legal service providers, including legal clinics, to work with our government to build a sustainable, client-focused legal aid system for the future of our province.”

—With files from Sean O’Shea and Jaclyn Carbone

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