Symposium tomorrow considers the future of community legal clinics

York University Chancellor and former Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry, Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley, UK Director of Justice Roger Smith and former Ontario premier David Peterson will be among the guest speakers at the Celebration of Ontario’s Community Legal Clinics Symposium on Thursday, Nov. 12, from 9am to 4:30pm, at the University of Toronto Conference Facility, 89 Chestnut St., Toronto.

Sponsored by York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and hosted by the University of Toronto’s Centre for the Legal Profession, the symposium will provide an opportunity for the legal community to celebrate and reflect on four decades of accomplishments by Ontario’s community legal clinics in promoting access to justice for the most disadvantaged Ontarians.

"There are now 82 community clinics serving vulnerable and low-income communities throughout Ontario," says Professor Shin Imai (left), academic director of Osgoode’s Parkdale Community Legal Services, which was established in 1971 as the first community-based legal aid clinic in Ontario. "Ontario’s community legal clinics serve those who are hardest hit by the financial crisis – people who are not paid their wages, people struggling to make ends meet on welfare, and tenants living in substandard housing."

"This symposium will bring together clinic representatives and members of the broader legal and social justice communities to review clinics’ past achievements and current challenges, and to discuss recent policy reports with respect to the role of community legal clinics in ensuring access to justice for all Ontarians," adds Professor Lorne Sossin, director of the Centre for the Legal Profession at the University of Toronto.

Community legal clinics are independent, non-profit organizations that are governed by a locally elected board of directors. Under the governance of the board, each community legal clinic provides services that address the unique legal needs of low-income people in its community.

Typical areas for legal services and community organizing are tenant rights, social assistance, immigration, employment insurance, workplace safety and insurance, workers’ compensation, employment rights, criminal injuries compensation and human rights.

For more information about the Celebration of Ontario’s Community Legal Clinics Symposium, click here.