Before Pro Bono Ontario launched in 2001, there was no tradition of organized pro bono in this province. Yet, lawyers have always responded to our calls in droves whenever we asked them to address the unmet legal needs of vulnerable groups. They did so when we created a program to protect the education rights of school children in 2002, when we launched Canada’s first court-based self-help program for unrepresented litigants in 2007, when we created Canada’s first medical-legal partnership in 2009, and in 2017, when we launched the province-wide Free Legal Advice Hotline, the first of its kind in Canada.
In 2017, Pro Bono Ontario served over 25,000 low-income Ontarians with nowhere else to turn. We have also helped the courts save over $5 million in costs. Together with our volunteers, we have changed Ontario in terms of who can now access legal assistance, where people can get help, and how the legal profession engages with pro bono.