Legal Aid Ontario commits $850,000 toward new clinic for black community

October 6, 2017
Article Source
The Lawyer's Daily

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is establishing a new legal clinic to serve the black community after it decided to pull funding from the African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) in August.

“LAO’s commitment is to support the creation of a strong, black-led, black-focused community legal clinic. To that end LAO is immediately committing $850,000 toward the work of establishing a new clinic,” said LAO spokesperson, Graeme Burk, referencing sentiments made by David Field, LAO's chief executive officer.

LAO held a public meeting in September to gauge what the community needs in way of legal support. Nearly 200 people showed up to engage with LAO on what the new clinic should look like.

“What LAO heard at the community meeting is that a new clinic needs to be established as soon as possible and that further community engagement and feedback is required. This new clinic will be an independent community clinic and will therefore be community led. LAO will be providing support and resources to assist with the creation of a new clinic and [it will be open] in no more than one year,” said Burk, adding that an advisory committee will be consulting with the community on the location of the clinic, its mandate and services.

According to LAO, its work on this project is informed by extensive research it has already done on the needs of the black community, including through the consultations and literature review conducted by LAO’s Racialized Communities Strategy.

“This new clinic is important to LAO’s mandate to improve access to justice to racialized communities, particularly the black community. LAO will engage in broader consultations for its Racialized Communities Strategy in the fall. The advisory committee will be conducting its own consultations on the development of a new clinic,” said Burk.

LAO’s decision to defund the Toronto-based clinic came after a lengthy dispute resolution process and a forensic audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC). According to the decision, released on Aug. 16, the audit revealed corporate credit cards were used for personal purchases; the clinic had spent an excessive amount on taxis, travel and meal expenses; and money meant for salaries was used to pay for bonuses. LAO’s concerns over financial mismanagement of the clinic date back to 2009, but the decision to finally defund took effect on Sept. 30.

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