TORONTO, Feb. 12 LAWFUEL – Canadian Legal News – The Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, Gavin MacKenzie, today expressed the Law Society’s continuing concern over the need for a well-funded and sustainable system of legal aid in Ontario.
“We believe that the right of vulnerable citizens to legal assistance is an important component of the administration of justice in a free and
democratic society,” the Treasurer said. “Since the Ontario Legal Aid Plan was founded in 1967, the Law Society has recognized that legal aid should be
considered a right, not a charitable gift, and that individuals are equal
before the law only if they are assured the option of legal representation.”
“More than a million Ontarians benefit from Legal Aid Ontario every year, many of them through our excellent clinic system”, he added. “Legal aid also helps many vulnerable Ontarians with family law, criminal law, workers’
compensation, immigration, landlord-tenant and other legal issues.”
“But there are still many thousands of individuals in Ontario who cannot afford legal services and do not qualify for support from the system. The
income threshold is far too low – if you earn just over $13,000 a year you are too rich to qualify for legal aid. We are alarmed by the dramatic increase in the number of people who try to represent themselves in court without the
benefit of legal representation or advice about their rights. Others simply give up their right to a fair hearing. For all of these people, access to
justice is denied.”
The Law Society regards the Attorney General’s appointment of Professor John McCamus to review legal aid issues and the establishment of a working group with Legal Aid Ontario as important steps toward the development of
strategies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of legal aid, including the provision of adequate and stable funding.