Councillor Kavanagh will put forward her motion regarding the cuts to Legal Aid Ontario to City Council on Wednesday June 26th.
WHEREAS The recent Ontario budget has cut funding to Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) by $133 million, retroactive to April 1, 2019; and
WHEREAS the budget cut to the LAO budget will have a direct negative impact on the budget of Community Legal Services of Ottawa and on the services, they provide to our most vulnerable residents including low-income families, people with disabilities, newcomers to Ottawa, our elderly residents, and the homeless and result in a further burdening on the City of Ottawa Social Services and Housing Sector; and
WHEREAS the City of Ottawa continues to value its partnerships with community stakeholders (including our local community legal clinics) and wants to ensure that we all continue to work and collaborate with each other to ensure the proposed legal aid budget cuts will not impact the community legal clinic’s ability to represent and protect the legal needs of our residents; and
WHEREAS the Community Legal Services of Ottawa is committed to upholding the rights of the most vulnerable people of Ottawa on issues that are most critical to them, including access to basic needs income support programs (Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, Canada Pension Plan, Canada Child Benefits and Old Age Security Pension), legal assistance in resolving Landlord and Tenant issues, and legal support to new Canadians to resolve complex immigration and refugee issues, all of which will also impact many other areas that affect low-income people and thereby further burdening the City’s resources; and
WHEREAS the budget cuts to Legal Aid Ontario will have a severe impact on the ability of Community Legal Services of Ottawa and its legal aid partners to provide legal services to Ontario’s most vulnerable populations and assist them in meeting their most basic needs and live with health and dignity as active members of their communities; and
WHEREAS the Community Legal Services of Ottawa has been providing services to Ottawa residents for over 31 years across the entire city and have assisted residents in various matters such as: a Tenant Duty Counsel Service at the Landlord and Tenant Board (where in 2018 they assisted more than 1,400 tenants), Housing Law Assistance (where in 2018 they also provided legal assistance to a further 1,350 tenants), Disability Law Assistance (including representing clients on tribunal appeals when their applications for disability benefits are denied) and Immigration Law Assistance (where in 2018 they assisted 977 individuals and families); and
WHEREAS to further ensure that the Community Legal Services of Ottawa continue to receive the support they need and emphasize the long-term consequences to the City and its residents that all would be further burden on the Social Services and Affordable Housing sector of the City;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Ottawa calls upon the Province of Ontario to make a commitment to access to justice; to respect the commitment of their Government to not decrease front line legal aid services; and to confirm that funding for community legal clinics will not be decreased and further burden the City of Ottawa’s resources.