Legal assistance clinics get makeovers in Welland and St. Catharines

January 4, 2019
Article Source
The Standard (St. Catharines)

Niagara North Community Legal Assistance in St. Catharines and Justice Niagara in Welland have been helping vulnerable clients for decades — but after their recent amalgamation, have a new name and new ways to offer assistance.

As of Jan. 1, Niagara Community Legal Clinic is a result of the merger of the St. Catharines site at 8 Church St. and the Welland site at 15 Burgar St.

The clinics will the same mandate of providing access to justice for low-income people. The merger gives each clinic more front-line staff and lower overhead.

"The boards have been working on it for a few years," said Natalie Chaumont, chair of the Niagara Community Legal Clinic board. "The way it was before, people could go to either legal clinic, and they were provided different services at each depending on what they needed and the expertise available in the clinic.

"Now clients can go to any clinic, and the service they need will be available there."

The clinics offer assistance with such things as landlord-tenant disputes, migrant worker rights and power of attorney matters for senior citizens and incapacitated people. The clinics also help with ODSP/OW appeals, pension appeals, employment law for low-income workers, human rights and Indigenous law.

The not-for-profit organizations are funded by Legal Aid Ontario, an arm's-length agency of the Ministry of the Attorney General for Ontario, said Aidan Johnson, executive director of Niagara Community Legal Clinic.

"All of the money we are saving by combining ourselves is going to be reinvested into better client services for low-income people in Niagara," Johnson said. "When our two boards went to legal aid, we said we wanted to merge on the condition that combining and creating efficiencies in administration will be reinvested in client service. In other words, legal aid won't be absorbing the savings."

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