Legal Aid Ontario lends support to black youth facing suspension from school

June 30, 2017

Legal Aid Ontario, the non-profit group of lawyers that specializes in representing low-income clients, is providing a major financial boost to a program designed to help black students who are in conflict with the education system.

The one-time grant of $100,000 will fund an initiative run by TAIBU Community Health Centre in Scarborough and the Rexdale Community Health Centre. It's set to provide legal representation, advocacy or counsel to youth in trouble at school, specifically if they are suspended or expelled. 

"This is an important area for us to get into," said David Field, the president of Legal Aid Ontario, adding that his client base includes many racialized individuals. 

At a Tuesday news conference, Field flagged troubling Toronto District School Board data that revealed almost half of TDSB students expelled over last 5 years are black.

"It was really necessary for Legal Aid to look at the impact on youth with their initial contact with the law," he said. 

The idea is that expulsion sends youth spiraling into the the criminal justice system and if they don't know their rights at disciplinary hearings, they're denied a fair chance at prosperity.

One grant, big picture change

"Let me just say it out front that racialized youth face challenges within our system," said Ontario Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter as she addressed an audience of community leaders at TAIBU.  

She described the grant as a big help in her government's crusade against systemic racism in schools and other sectors with Ontario's three-year anti-racism strategy.

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