Call to Resist Legal Aid Austerity
The gloves are off. Just a year into his term, Ford’s hostility towards the people of Ontario is undeniable. His agenda of austerity has slashed our healthcare, our public education and our social benefits. And now, he is destroying our legal aid.
This year’s budget cut legal aid funding by a catastrophic 30%, which will rise to a staggering 40%. Legal services for refugees, at risk of torture or worse, have been fully defunded. These cuts and the choices Legal Aid Ontario is making about their implementation will have a cruel impact on all poor and low-income Ontarians. As with much of the legal system, they will have a disproportionate impact on already marginalized communities, including Indigenous, Black and People of Colour communities, People with Disabilities, Women, and 2SLGBTQ+ communities.
Legal aid has always been drastically underfunded. But services provided through Legal Aid Ontario and community legal clinics have brought a semblance of balance to this lopsided legal system. Ford’s cuts will erode even this fighting chance. They will mean far fewer advocates for those facing criminal records, incarceration, deportation, or denial of social benefits. They will mean fewer resources to fight back when bosses steal wages, when landlords unjustly evict, or when the state tries to remove children from their parents’ homes.
The Law Union of Ontario strongly condemns this regressive agenda of austerity. In so doing, we stand in solidarity with all the organizations and communities across the province that are fighting back. We salute creative protests and acts of civil disobedience that have already taken place. We demand that the cuts be reversed and that the government adequately fund the vital services Ontarians rely upon to live dignified lives. Together, we dream of a province where these cuts are not only reversed, but where everyone’s needs are fully met. Building that society will require a massive people’s movement that transcends issues. As a result, the Law Union joins community organizations like the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and No One is Illegal in calling for a sustained campaign of resistance and a mass movement for societal transformation that accelerates through to the end of the Ford government and continues long after.
As progressive legal workers, we are committed to working with political movements in supporting roles. If you are part of such a movement, get in touch with our Movement Defence Committee. And let us know how else we can help.
The Law Union of Ontario