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Legal Aid Ontario facing up to $70 million funding drop amid COVID-19 ‘perfect storm

From the Toronto Star (July 13, 2020):

As demand for legal aid services rises from Ontarians facing evictions, job loss, domestic violence and other issues, Legal Aid Ontario is staring down a funding crisis that lawyers say could decimate front-line services in the coming months.

“There could be anywhere from a $60 to $70 million shortfall,” said Lenny Abramowicz, head of the Alliance for Sustainable Legal Aid and the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario.

“On top of the (30 per cent) budget cuts that happened last year… we will be looking at a significant decrease in services across the board. There will be less access to justice across the province if both levels of government don’t step up and deal with this COVID-related emergency. There will be people going unrepresented across courts and tribunals across Ontario.” (Lenny Abramowicz, Executive Director, ACLCO)

“Without clinics being properly funded and having that stability, it is very unlikely that we’d be able to meet the needs of the community, meaning that what we are going to see is an increase in homelessness, in poverty, increase in mental health issues, increase in crime even… By providing legal services to the most vulnerable members of our society … we are actually the safety net that prevents them from falling into those types of circumstances.” (Omar Ha-Redeye, Executive Director, Durham Community Legal Clinic)