The provincial government’s recent funding cuts to education and public health in Canada has recently caught a lot of attention, and significant protest from municipalities have resulted in these controversial changes being rolled back. However, many a criminal lawyer in Brampton are worrying about the cuts to legal aid, which they say could negatively impact low-income residents in the area.
Doug Ford and the Ontario Government recently slashed funding for Legal Aid Ontario by 30%, which will result in the LAO having $133m less funding for the fiscal year than what they anticipated, which will be followed by an additional cut of $33m for the next fiscal year.
This means that many people will no longer have access to Legal Aid, with Immigration and Refugee coverage being eliminated entirely. As for people in need of Legal Aid certificates, they can no longer rly on government assistance for funding their legal cases. Given that the LAO also handles family and criminal law, any marriage or criminal lawyer in Brampton will also be hit by its effects.
In response, lawyers from across Ontario rallied at Queen’s Park against the LAO cuts, with even other professionals joining in solidarity, like doctors and medical professionals, due to the OHIP’s budget cuts.
Legal Aid was already dealing with a lack of funding, even before the recent cuts, with locals living in poverty unable to utilize the LAO’s services due to the agency’s financial issues. With the recent budget cuts from the Ontario government, even more people in precarious situations won’t be able to receive legal help, simply because the LAO can’t provide the help.
One of the founding ideas behind the LAO is to promote access to justice, allowing people having financial problems stopping them from acquire a lawyer to acquire one all the same. The problem is that these budget cuts not only hamper that goal, but practically oppose it, in spirit.
Government officials are saying that access to legal representation will still be achievable, and that the savings will be worthwhile, but law practitioners are saying otherwise. For the former, the simple matter of providing legal assistance without funding is difficult at best, while the latter is undermined by the fact that budget cuts will result to strain that’ll create increase costs in the legal system elsewhere.