On Friday, December 13th, Parkdale Community Legal Services (PCLS) received a decision from the Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) Clinic Committee reconsidering its earlier decision on funding for PCLS.
The reconsideration decision is consistent with announcements from the Ontario government: cuts that were implemented in 2019 remain, but the decision to further cut funding in 2020-2021 has been set aside. Funding for 2020-21 will be decided after PCLS submits its funding application in the new year.
In its decision, the Clinic Committee recognized PCLS’ unique characteristics as a hybrid of a community, educational and specialty clinic. The Committee emphasized that “the unique qualities of the Clinic make it difficult to compare them to other Toronto clinics”. As a result, “the Clinic requires a unique approach in considering how to deal with its funding and the services it provides” and funding for PCLS “needs to be treated more flexibly.”
PCLS has a 50 year history in the community and is one of the oldest and largest teaching community clinics in the province. PCLS’ programs and services include community education, outreach, organizing, law reform, casework, legal education, advice, and test case work.
Integral to this community lawyering and community work is PCLS’ Intensive Program in Poverty Law which provides essential training and development for 40 students every year. Many PCLS students go on, after graduation, to work in legal aid clinics across the province. The Clinic Committee recognized PCLS’ role as a teaching clinic and also that PCLS is “engaged in a higher degree of community and law reform type work than other Toronto community clinics”, making it in part a specialty clinic with an “emphasis on law reform”.
Applications for LAO funding for 2020-21 are due at the end of January and 2020-21 budgets (yet to be determined) will be deployed in the spring. PCLS looks forward to working with LAO to continue re-investment in PCLS’ funding as an essential part of the community clinic and legal aid system.
As the legal aid system continues to be affected by significant budgetary cuts and legislative changes, PCLS will continue to push for a full reversal of the provincial cuts to legal aid funding and a legal aid system that supports access to justice for low-income Ontarians and disadvantaged communities.