Based partly on a press release from the Ontario Attorney General’s office
TORONTO The South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO) will be receiving stable funding through Legal Aid Ontario, part of $51 million in new government funding, Attorney General Michael Bryant announced on July 19, 2007.SALCO’s share will total more than $1.5 million over three years.
He said that a third of South Asians in Ontario fall below the poverty line of Statistics Canada and he wanted to make sure these people get the legal help they need when they need it. He outlined other instances, such as when a South Asian husband makes enough money and can afford a lawyer but his wife cannot and the two are embroiled in a marital and custody dispute. “She should have access to legal services,” Mr. Bryant said.
“We are making sure that more people who need legal aid services receive them, increasing access to justice for low-income Ontarians,” said Bryant. “We are proud of the close working relationship we have developed with Legal Aid Ontario. Through this funding, the McGuinty government is helping to ensure the agency is in sound financial shape this year and into the future.”
As part of the increase, Legal Aid Ontario will provide stable funding for services that help one of the greater Toronto area’s fastest growing communities. The South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario responds to the legal needs of thousands of low-income Ontarians in their clients’ first language by providing culturally sensitive services. While the clinic has received individual project grants from the Law Foundation of Ontario and Legal Aid Ontario for several years, this new stable funding will secure the future of this valuable service.
“South Asians represent the largest and fastest growing minority group in Toronto,” said Prakash David, President of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario. “We are thankful for this stable funding, which will allow us to focus on long-term planning to better meet the needs of Toronto’s South Asian community.”
David said that it was in the interest of bridging the gap between full representation and no representation that almost 10 years ago a group of South Asian lawyers started to provide volunteer drop-in clinics in the community through community-based settlement agencies aimed at low income and vulnerable South Asians.
“Over the past decade, SALCO has continued to provide serices even when we had sporadic and uncertain funding and little or no infrastructure,” David said. “Theincreasing demand for SALCO services is a testimony to the excellence resilience, commitment and sheer determinaton of its staff, board, volunteers and partners.”
The $51 million will also provide legal assistance to hundreds more vulnerable women and children who are involved in complex and serious family law cases and who might not otherwise have legal representation in court. The government’s funding will increase support for poverty and clinic law services. It will also help to make legal aid accessible to more families by making changes to the financial eligibility test. As well, the funding will enable Legal Aid Ontario to assist in large and costly cases, including those related to guns and gangs.
This funding is just one more example of how, working together, Ontarians have achieved results in increasing access to justice, the ministry says.