TORONTO (Nov. 27, 2018) — Pro Bono Ontario is excited to announce it will be keeping its Law Help Centres for unrepresented litigants open throughout 2019.
The centres were slated to close on Dec. 14 due to a lack of stable funding.
Today, the federal Department of Justice made a one-time contribution to PBO of $250,000 through its Justice Innovation and Partnership Program that will enable PBO to maintain the centres while it develops a long-term sustainability plan. Those funds, in addition to the $275,000 of generous donations that have poured in from law firms, individual lawyers, and law associations, will allow us to keep the Law Help Centres open until the end of 2019.
PBO remains committed, however, to working with stakeholders to ensure a long-term solution is found to allow it to continue to provide free legal services and access to justice to low-income Ontarians.
PBO operates three court-based centres, two in Toronto and one in Ottawa, that provide free legal services to low-income Ontarians with civil and small claims matters. Since Legal Aid Ontario cut its civil certificate program in 2010 (along with a core grant to PBO), the centres have been the only organized response to unmet civil litigation needs. The centres have provided in-person and telephone consultations to a growing number of people who are referred by legal aid offices and court-houses throughout the province. In 2017, they served 18,872 clients, a tenfold increase over the last decade.
“Since announcing the closures, we have heard from our clients who were distraught about the prospect of facing the justice system alone. The response we’ve seen from lawyers demonstrates decisively that the legal profession cares and is committed to access to justice,” says PBO executive director Lynn Burns. “We are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to keep fighting for unrepresented litigants.”
PBO has struggled for years to secure the resources needed to meet the growing demand for services.
“This buys us a year to secure stable institutional funding. The profession, from new calls to the current and former chief justices of Canada, has made clear that it wants to ensure the survival of these important programs,” says Guy Pratte, PBO chair. “We intend to spend the next 12 months working with stakeholders, including the Law Society of Ontario, to achieve this goal.”
PBO would like to express its thanks to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould, all the volunteers who have rallied to the cause, and law firms, lawyers, and groups that donated. Donations to PBO can still be made through Canada Helps. https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/pro-bono-ontario/#donate-now
Media Contact: Lynn Burns, [email protected]
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