Legal Aid Ontario Launches New “Racialized Communities Strategies”
Many of you may be familiar with Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), which is a non-profit corporation tasked with administering the province’s legal aid program serving members of the public. Although it is independent, it is publicly-funded and publicly-accountable.
LAO’s overarching mandate is to promote access to justice for low-income individuals throughout Ontario, which involves identifying their diverse legal needs. To further this mandate, LAO reports that it is launching a Racialized Communities Strategy, which it hopes will allow it to “build upon [its] services and supports to better help with the legal needs of racialized communities.”
(LAO clarifies that the term “racialized communities” refers to “all people who do not consider themselves to be white;” it also specifies that the term does not encompass First Nation, Métis and Inuit people).
Noting that there has been an over-representation of racialized communities in the justice system, LAO will be asking clients in these communities a series of questions about what may not be working for them in terms of LAO’s rules and processes, and what gaps there may be in legal services. LAO also intends to talk to broader categories of members, and the community agencies that serve them, including:
- justice and social service partners
- community service providers
- legal clinics
- professional associations
- government agencies
- LAO staff
Using the information gathered from these diverse sources, LAO will build upon its services and supports to better help with the legal needs of racialized communities, in order to:
- better understand client needs
- develop improved processes that reflect a better understanding of client experiences
- provide more support to service providers
- create a plan for better understanding of clients specifically by LAO staff
The first year of the Racialized Communities Strategies will be spent identifying ways in which LAO’s legal services can be enhanced to address the needs of this specific community.