Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario



Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario

April 18, 2013 20:23 ET

Ontario's Community Legal Clinics Release Innovative Strategic Plan

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 18, 2013) - The Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario (ACLCO) is proud to announce the release of a first-ever Strategic Plan for Ontario's Community Legal Clinic system.

"Community Legal Clinics have come together to develop a plan that ensures the highest quality and most effective services possible at a time when public resources are shrinking," said Trudy McCormick, Co-Chair of the ACLCO. "Innovation in service delivery is imperative, and our Strategic Plan harmonizes innovation with an expansion of holistic, cost-effective, community-driven legal services that serve vulnerable community members."

The Strategic Plan was developed through an extensive planning and consultation process that included clinic boards and staff, community partners and the justice sector. The Plan has been overwhelmingly endorsed by Ontario's Community Legal Clinics, each of which is an independent, community-based organization. Community Legal Clinics, which receive their core funding from Legal Aid Ontario, provide legal services for the poorest, most disadvantaged and marginalized members of Ontario's communities.

R. Roy McMurtry, former Chief Justice of Ontario and Chair of Friends of the Community Clinics, describes the Strategic Plan as, "a watershed moment in the history of clinics". The plan, he said, "shows a clear and realizable commitment to modernize service delivery, ensure systemic leadership, and maximize the impact of the available funding, while preserving the core value of responsiveness to the priorities set by the highly diverse communities that have been so ably served by this model of service delivery for some 40 years."

"The ACLCO looks forward to working with our communities, Legal Aid Ontario, and other justice sector partners to implement this exciting and transformative plan for the provision of poverty law services in Ontario," said Gerda Kaegi, ACLCO Co-Chair.

The ACLCO and its member clinics are grateful to the Law Foundation of Ontario and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, who provided the valuable resources necessary to complete this pivotal project.

BACKGROUND

Ontario's Community Legal Clinics provide poverty law services to Ontario's low-income communities. Clinics are independent, community-based organizations, each governed by a Board of Directors, whose members are drawn from the community served by the clinic, and who determine the legal needs of their community and implement the services to meet those needs. The bulk of clinic funding is provided by Legal Aid Ontario.

Clinics assist people with meeting their most basic needs, such as a source of income, a roof over their heads, human rights, rights to education and health care, etc. Clinics provide these services through a variety of methods, including traditional casework, summary advice, self help, public legal education, community development and law reform initiatives. Clinic work often involves trying to effect systemic change on behalf of the broader community.

There are 77 clinics in Ontario. Of these, 60 serve specific geographic communities while 17 'specialty clinics' serve low-income communities that are not defined geographically, such as seniors, or youth, or injured workers. In 2011, community legal clinics provided legal services to over 200,000 low-income Ontarians.

The Strategic Plan has four Strategic Directions:

  1. Expand Client Access to Poverty Law Services: Collaborating to expand client and community access to poverty law services to address challenges such as changing demographics and the racialization of poverty, evolving service needs, and limited resources.

  2. Enhance Capacity for Systemic Work: Strengthening our capacity to do preventive and systemic poverty law work - including community development, law reform, test cases, and public legal education - to achieve the greatest positive impact for our client communities.

  3. Strengthen Community Connections: Increasing clinic accountability to the clients and communities we serve and pursue a range of ways for clinics to be an integral part of community efforts to meet the needs of persons living in poverty.

  4. Enhance System-Wide Coordination and Support: Strengthening our capacity for provincial coordination and support to enable clinics collectively to provide the highest quality service and to ensure the clinic system is accountable for the services it provides with public funds.

The full Strategic Plan and Draft Action Items flowing from the Plan are available online at: http://aclco.org/strategic_plan.html.

The Friends of the Community Clinics is a group of leaders in Ontario's legal community, each of whom has a long and distinguished history of commitment to access to justice in Ontario. The Friends was formed in March 2011 to show support for Ontario's community clinic system, and to provide the clinic system with advice and guidance, particularly on moving the clinic system forward while preserving the fundamental values that have served their communities well. More information about the Friends is available online at: http://www.oba.org/en/main/home_en/Newsdetails.aspx?no=NEWS03092011-2129-1E.

The Community Legal Clinics Strategic Plan, Draft Action Items, and a letter from the Friends of the Community Clinics are available at: http://aclco.org/strategic_plan.html.

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