A successful Toronto Parkdale law office has been forced to move to a church basement because of provincial legal aid funding being slashed.
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 in the province as a whole. Assistance with refugee and immigration cases are being impacted.
“I feel like I’ve dedicated my life to the this place, this community,” said staff administrator Linda Newton, who was laid off after working at the office for 20 years.
A million dollars has been cut from the Parkdale office’s annual budget of $2.3 million. That means half of the 22 employees have been let go.
Lawyer John No remains, but he’s concerned about his ability to help all of those who need legal assistance.
“If they can’t get legal assistance from us, they won’t be able to get legal assistance from anywhere,“ he said.
Forty-nine-year-old refugee Tsewang Dhondup has limited use of his left arm after he was shot fleeing the 2008 Tibetan unrest. His goal was to get to Canada.
“I heard that Canada was a gentle country and that many refugees had found a home in Canada,“ he told Global News via an interpreter.
Dhondup said he’s concerned about the numerous other refugees who need legal help.
Upset residents of Ontario protested in front of Premier Doug Ford’s constituency office in Etobicoke Tuesday morning, asking for the cuts to be reversed.
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that in Ontario’s dire fiscal situation, every available dollar is dedicated to front-line services rather than outdated bureaucracies and unchecked windfalls for lawyers.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 Erica Vella