Refusal to provide funds to Law Help Centres
It is hard to navigate the Canadian legal system without a legal representative. Most individuals who can’t afford legal representation are forced to represent themselves in court. As resolving a dispute is a complex process, these individuals are left with a serious lack of access to justice without any help. In these cases, The Law Help Centres in Toronto and Ottawa provides help to more than 18,000 self-represented individuals. However, recently the Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government has indicated it will not commit to funding the centre.
The Law Help Centres are designed to offer free services. With the help of volunteer lawyers, these centres offer free assistance and their opinions to unrepresented people. This not only helps these individuals prepare for their legal claims but also educate them on how to navigate the Canadian Legal System. In 2015-16 alone, lawyers and law students in Ontario donated 22,200 hours' worth of pro-bono services assisting self-represented litigants.
Jennifer Leitch, a visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School says:
“All in all, this promotes the administration of justice and furthers people’s ability to access justice in their lives – both of which are worthy goals. In straightforward economic terms, it has been estimated that the $500,000 required of the government to support the existence and operation of Law Help Centres results in more than $5-million in cost savings and economic benefit associated with promoting access to justice for the citizens of Ontario. Law Help Centres have generated over $2-million of value in pro-bono lawyer time from the private sector.”
It seems reasonable to conclude that Law Help Centres are helping numerous self-represented individuals to navigate the legal system and if the government decides not to fund them, it will create serious access to justice issues.
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