TORONTO, June 13, 2019 /CNW/ - OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is demanding that the Ford government immediately reverse its cuts to Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) in the wake of the news that those cuts are being passed on to community and specialty clinics across the province.
"What's happening to legal clinics is shameful," said Thomas. "If these cuts are allowed to happen, people in Ontario with low incomes will be stripped of the legal aid services they need to preserve the basic essentials of life.
"These cuts will devastate people's lives and threaten the integrity of our justice system."
The Ford government imposed a $133-million cut to LAO in the spring budget. Another $165-million cut is expected next year.
Today, LAO informed the community and specialty clinics that it funds that they will also have significant cuts imposed on them. Parkdale Community Legal Services in Toronto, for example, is having its budget cut by $1 million.
"These clinics are the last line of defence for vulnerable Ontarians," said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. "They prevent unjust eviction. They protect people from being deported into life-threatening situations. And they help people on social assistance or worker's compensation who don't have enough to put food on the table. Cutting these services is disgusting."
"The government assured everyone that frontline services would not be affected," said Aidan Macdonald, President of OPSEU Local 5118. "But these clinics are already operating at the bare bones. It's impossible for them to absorb these cuts without cutting back on the services people need."
Thomas vowed that OPSEU will fight these cuts until they're undone.
"This fight is far from over," said Thomas. "The legal clinics and the communities they serve will organize and fight back. We've seen the Ford government back down on other issues in the face of sustained pressure, and OPSEU fully supports all efforts to make this the next issue they have to retreat on."
SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)