Getting wiggy with it

{module Flip Your Wig 2016}{nomultithumb}

Photos: Niel Etienne

The second annual Flip Your Wig campaign launched Feb. 25 in the Law Society of Upper Canada’s barristers’ lounge with colourful locks and curls and five organizations putting their heads together to further access to justice for Ontarians.

The Flip Your Wig initiative is a light-hearted, pledge-based fundraising campaign running until the end of March to support the continuing efforts of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Community Legal Education Ontario, METRAC – Action on Violence, Ontario Justice Education Network, and Pro Bono Students Canada.

A celebration event hosted by the LSUC on Thursday night kicked of the campaign with legal professionals and members of the organizations gathering to don their wacky dos and get their heads in the game of supporting the very serious issues surrounding access to justice.

This year’s goal is to raise $80,000 and by the time the kick-off event had wrapped, the combined efforts of those involved had already garnered about half that, says Jess Reekie, executive director for the Ontario Justice Education Network.

“Estimates are that 50 per cent of Canadians try to solve their own legal problems, without a lawyer; that figure rises to 80 per cent in family law matters,” said special keynote speaker and recently appointed chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Renu Mandhane. “The barriers at play are myriad.”

She explains many people have legal issues not covered by legal aid and do not have the means to pay a lawyer, while others do not qualify for legal aid even if their legal issues fall within the organization’s scope, but still don’t have the means to fund counsel.

“The choice then is stark; either work through the legal problem without help or abandon their claim,” she said. “This is not a tenable solution when people’s liberty, mental health, and family life are at stake.”

She said women, those with mental health issues, and racialized claimants tend to have the greatest barriers to access justice in Canada and the growing gap between the rich and the poor is only further placing hurdles in the way of people’s rights to justice.

“Given what’s at stake, we must begin, first, by acknowledging that access to justice itself is a fundamental human right,” Mandhane told those collected for the kick off.

“I call on you to continue to do what you’re doing; advocate for more funding, examine systems and create new systems, work together, be creative and think about the exorbitant fees we charge and what that means for people who need access to justice.”

Donations can be made through the Flip Your Wig for Justice web site. Members of the profession are also being encouraged to support the drive by donating the equivalent of one billable hour in support of access to justice initiatives by the five organizations involved.

Law Times and Canadian Lawyer are proud to be the media sponsors of Flip Your Wig. Read more about the efforts law firms and other partners are involved in the FYW digital magazine.

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