Joint Statement by PCLS Board and Staff
Parkdale Community Legal Services (PCLS) staff and Board of Directors condemn the massive cuts to social and other services, including a specific 30% cut to legal aid services as announced by the Provincial government on April 11th. Together, we call upon the Attorney General and the Premier to reverse this decision.
The current PCLS lease ends on July 31st, 2019 and we are busy preparing to enter an adequate new office space in the community. Our funder, Legal Aid Ontario, had approved the new lease in principle. We approved the design plan, and construction is imminent.
On April 30th, we received communication that Legal Aid Ontario is unwilling to commit to more than one year of funding to the new lease and is unwilling to support any set up costs at the next site. The alternative option presented was for us to move out of our community.
LAO has also indicated that PCLS’ immediate and ongoing funding is uncertain.
Together, we call upon the government and Legal Aid Ontario uphold commitments to:
1. Keep community legal clinics in their respective communities. Re-commit to funding adequate, long-term space for PCLS in Parkdale
We stand for community legal clinics staying IN the community.
LAO’s decision to retract their funding commitment to space in our community mere months before our move fundamentally jeopardizes the viability of our clinic and drastically compromises our clinic’s ability to provide front-line services to local residents.
In 2018, PCLS supported thousands of individuals in speaking out for their rights in campaigns and outreach, provided hundreds of individuals with legal information, education, and referrals, and carried over 2,300 legal case files. In order to continue our work serving the needs of low-income and marginalized community members facing violence, eviction, inadequate income and precarious immigration status, PCLS as a whole must remain in Parkdale.
2. No cuts to community legal clinics. No cut to PCLS services for community members in Parkdale-Swansea
Shuttering PCLS and any other legal aid clinics or significantly cutting budgets will accelerate the displacement of and harm to the poorest, most marginalized members of our community; disproportionately affecting individuals experiencing violence, individuals with mental health disabilities and addictions, individuals experiencing homelessness, and racialized and Indigenous community members.
3. No cuts to refugee and migrant legal aid services
We reject the targeted cuts to refugee and migrant services within the legal aid system. Parkdale-Swansea is home to refugees and migrants. PCLS and other community legal clinics must continue to provide quality services to migrants struggling to establish themselves in our communities. It is our duty to serve the needs of community members with precarious immigration status.
4. No job cuts
Over 90% of any community legal clinic’s budget pays for staff who provide direct services to community members. Significant budget cuts will result in job losses at PCLS. Job losses will mean significantly fewer quality services for members of the Parkdale-Swansea community and any other community hit with cuts.
5. Maintain commitment to community outreach, education and organizing in community legal clinics
PCLS is one of the first community legal clinics in Canada and is rooted in the value and object of clinics serving the community and supporting community organizing, outreach and education to amplify voices in speaking out against oppression and inequality. This work is front-line work. The community legal clinic system is uniquely placed as sites of social justice and access to justice in action. Cuts to this essential element of our work will have drastic impacts on community vitality, and our collective ability to seek justice.
6. Maintain PCLS as a training ground for social justice lawyers
PCLS is a uniquely situated training ground for the thousands of social justice lawyers in the legal clinic system and beyond. The work we do at PCLS resonates beyond our catchment area.
Budget cuts and lack of adequate space jeopardize our student program. As a leader in our commitment to community organizing for 47 years, cutting PCLS specifically creates the drastic consequence of destroying a knowledge base and space for social justice activism in the province of Ontario.
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