Ontario Injured Workers and Allies Demand Cuts to Legal Aid Be Rescinded
A rally and information picket were held outside the head office of Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) in downtown Toronto on October 24, in support of the appeal being made inside by three legal clinics to have their funding restored. The cuts to the legal clinics followed the cuts to social programs contained in the Ontario Conservative government’s April budget.
The Ford government cut the budget of the Ontario Attorney General’s Office by seven per cent, which in turn cut $15 million from the budgets of Ontario’s legal aid clinics. This amount represents 86 per cent of that seven per cent cut and, according to the legal aid clinics, is the largest cut to legal aid in Ontario’s history.
While all 74 of Ontario’s legal aid clinics suffered cuts, the hardest hit were three whose main work is supporting injured and marginalized workers, namely IAVGO Legal Clinic, Injured Workers Community Legal Clinic, and Workers’ Health and Safety Legal Clinic. These clinics believe they have been singled out because of their advocacy and political support of injured workers dealing with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Their work is critical in finding collective solutions to the plight of injured workers and their families.
Speakers, one after another, pointed out that without the support of these clinics they have no recourse in affirming their right to full compensation when they are injured on the job. They emphasized that these legal aid clinics also play an important role in acknowledging injured workers as human beings and validating their suffering and trauma.
One of the injured workers who spoke stated that without the help and support of her legal clinic, she would have been completely isolated and defenceless. She recalled that the WSIB did not believe her, even though her own WSIB doctor testified on her behalf, and they had a surveillance team track her daily activities and accused her of fraud. She condemned the Ford government for imposing these cuts when it should be supporting the most vulnerable in Ontario.
While the rally was taking place, the three legal aid clinics put their cases to the LAO board and injured workers provided testimonials calling on the LAO to reverse these funding cuts. A response is expected within 30 days.
In the meantime, injured workers and legal aid clinics are asking everyone to support their just cause by contacting the Attorney General of Ontario by phone at 1-800-518-7901 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and Premier Doug Ford at 416-325-1941 or email@example.com, to call on them to reverse the cuts to legal aid clinics and to stop targeting injured and precarious workers. More information can be found at: www.stoplegalaidcuts.ca.