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Ontario budget falls short on fixing legal aid: Boxall

|Written By Yamri Taddese

The $30 million over three years allocated for Legal Aid Ontario in this year’s Ontario budget doesn’t do much to address a system that is “strained to a breaking point,” according to Criminal Lawyers’ Association president Norman Boxall.

“Any increase for legal aid is welcome. However, given the extent to which it is underfunded, this allocation is not adequate,” says Boxall. The financial eligibility threshold for legal aid filters out too many people who are in need, says Boxall, who calls the criteria “frankly embarrassing.”

Yesterday’s budget notes the $30 million for Legal Aid Ontario is on top of the $150 million over four years allocated to it in 2009.

“This funding will improve access to justice and enhance outcomes for low-income families, victims of domestic violence, and other vulnerable groups by strengthening the capacity of family law service centres and other community and legal clinics across Ontario to respond to evolving needs and ensure services are sustainable,” the budget states.

Legal Aid Ontario spokesman Kristian Justesen only had praise for the funding.

“From LAO’s perspective, this is a good day for access to justice in Ontario,” he said. “This new investment will enhance outcomes for low-income families, victims of domestic violence, and other vulnerable groups.”

Overall, justice spending will decease by $57 million this year, according to the budget. The decline is primarily a result of “lower-than-expected costs related to municipal policing, lower overtime costs, and other internal efficiencies.”

Delays in buying courthouse furniture and equipment will also bring down capital expenses in the justice sector, according to the budget.

The Ontario government also said it’s implementing what it referred to as “transformative initiatives” in the justice system. They include “alternative financing to meet the capital infrastructure needs of Ontario’s justice system,” but the budget doesn’t elaborate on what they entail.

  • Random thought
    Great more money into legal aid :zzz , but its the legal system that needs to be looked at and updated to prevent further waste of taxpayer money. For example if you look at the spike in false domestic assault charges from 2009, used by individuals to further their position in family court. Its abuse and waste of taxpayers money and time of the court. This is just one example I've encountered, and lets not forget the unnecessary delays in family court. There has been some changes, but still a poor effort to improve the effectiveness and efficiencies of the legal system.
  • Brian
    If Ontario would quit handing the CMPA a hefty cheque each year - to firther bloat the CMPA's already bloated taxpayer-funded warchest - and instead gave that cheque to legal aid each year - the problems of access to justice for the poor would be greatly reduced - and all the lawyers know it. The problem is all the lawyers and the Ontario government are more interested in seeing that well-heeled, politically powerful, doctors continue to get free lawyering (but for the measely 15% of their CMPA fees that they actually pay). So spare us the posturing and the hand-wringing about access to justice for the poor.

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