Legal Aid Ontario – Faimly Mediation Sessions

A man and woman, with eyes downcast, separated by their daughter who's hands they are holding, with witnesses in the background, stand before a magistrate and other officials in Dutch artist Van de Laar 19th century painting: The Divorce

Beginning in 2014, Legal Aid Ontario will be offering family mediation on Tuesdays by appointment at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic (RCLC). Clients or Professionals who may be interested in learning more about Legal Aid Ontario’s mediation services may attend our 1 hour, monthly, information sessions to be held at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic. Please register in advance with our receptionist: 416-741-5201.

Weekly Information Sessions

Mondays from 1:00pm-5:00pm

 

The Family Mediator, Trish Thomas may schedule mediation sessions at the Family Court at 47 Sheppard Ave. East (Yonge & Sheppard) or at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic on Tuesdays by appointment only. Trish may be contacted directly to arrange for a mediation intake appointment at 416-979-2352 ext. 5193.

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Legal Aid Ontario Blog – What can Canadian lawyers contribute to a legal conference in Kenya?

kenya

What can Canadian lawyers contribute to a legal conference in Kenya?

October 30, 2013

By Ann McRae

This question initially crossed my mind when I was invited to speak about the use of paralegals in delivery of legal services. Conference organizers felt that as an Ontario legal aid lawyer, I had much knowledge and experience to share with conference participants. Through research and preparation, I came to learn how much Ontario’s legal aid structure and administration of justice has useful lessons for other jurisdictions.

In partnership with law societies from Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) is providing support and resources to a conference titled “Supporting Access to Justice for Children and Youth in East Africa”. The topics at the three-day event have been chosen to meet the needs and interests of the law societies, judges, court administrators, policy makers and non-government agencies, all of whom are working to improve the awareness and protections of children’s rights in the participating East African countries. A small group of Canadians are sprinkled into the panels and presentations to provide a unique and more established perspective.

The CBA has sponsored three Toronto clinic lawyers to cover three topics at the event taking place in Naivasha, Kenya, from October 29 to October 31. Mary Marrone, Director of Legal Services at the Income Security Advocacy Centre will speak on “The how and why of community engagement in needs assessments – strategies.” Emily Chan, Community Development Lawyer at Justice for Children and Youth will give a presentation on “Public Legal Education for Children and Youth”. As Director of Legal Services at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, my talk will be on “Strengthening Access to Justice through Non-Lawyers in the Canadian Legal Aid System”. I plan to focus on the use of paralegals in legal service delivery, including staff offices and community legal workers at clinics.

Ontario enjoys a better-funded judicial system and a better-funded scheme of legal assistance than many around the world. In other jurisdictions, particularly those in developing countries, duty counsel and community legal assistance is provided mostly by pro bono lawyers or non-government agencies. The quality and accessibility of these services varies widely. The structure and range of services offered by Legal Aid Ontario is of great interest to our counterparts in East Africa, and we are looking forward to sharing our knowledge and experience with them.

At the end of three days with the African delegates, we will learn what parts of the Ontario experience are most valuable in an East African context, and undoubtedly bring home valuable lesson to share.

Ann McRae is the Director of Legal Services at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic. 

Legal Aid Ontario Blog

Your Legal Rights: Latest Common Questions & Resources

Latest Common Questions from Your Legal Rights, a website of legal information for people in Ontario

Latest Common Questions

How can I avoid being taken advantage of by credit repair or debt settlement agencies?

Question:
How can I avoid being taken advantage of by credit repair or debt settlement agencies?

View all Common Questions


Latest Resources

Credit repair
This publication explains the legal rules for businesses that promise to “fix” or repair their credit reports. It also explains why these services may often not be worth paying for, and suggests other ways for people to deal with credit and debt problems.

Produced by:
CLEO – Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario

How Do I Know If My Identity Has Been Stolen?
This Ministry of Consumer Services web page lists some of the signs your identity might have been stolen: Bills or statements don’t arrive when they’re supposed to? Getting credit card statements for accounts you don’t have?

Produced by:
Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services

Your credit report
This publication explains what a credit report (or “consumer report”) is, and the legal rules for what information can and cannot be included in a credit report, who can access it, and how it can be used. It outlines how to get corrections made to a credit report, and what to do if you have problems with a credit bureau (“consumer reporting agency”).

Produced by:
CLEO – Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario

View all Resources

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About Your Legal Rights

Your Legal Rights is a project of CLEO and is funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario.

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We welcome your feedback.

Copyright © 2013 CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario), All rights reserved.

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GTA CLINIC TRANSFORMATION PROJECT: Monthly Newsletter September 2013

GTA CLINIC TRANSFORMATION PROJECT

Monthly Newsletter September 2013

Call for research on best practices

The GTA Transformation Project will be looking at international research and best practices for poverty law services to build on our existing literature review. Our current bibliography of research already reviewed is posted on our website – www.GTAclinics.ca. We would love to hear from you about any literature and articles that you know of that will help with this project. Email us or give us a call with anything you think is missing or to let us know of any information you’d like us to focus on.

Data Gathering Begins

Data gathering for the GTA Transformation is underway.

Since the Government changed the form for the 2011 Census, the data collected is not as helpful as the previous Census. A combination of 2011 Census data and 2010 Tax filer data will be used for most of the analysis as it will provide a fairly strong picture about where new immigrants are settling. When it is helpful, we will use the 2006 Census data to augment the other data we have.

Data will explore issues like low incomes, immigration rates and find the areas in the GTA that have the highest concentration of those circumstances.

The project will map the data and will overlay geographic data like the location of social housing and transit.

Additional data to be explored for their potential inclusion will include data on refugees, mental health survivors, Ontario Works and ODSP recipients.

A data subcommittee of the Steering Committee has been struck, with representatives from across the GTA. The subcommittee will discuss what data will be included in the data analysis of the project.

Project Workplan

The GTA Transformation Project will be working hard over the next several months to meet our project deliverables. In order to make sure that we respect the time needed to get this right, our project timelines may shift. Here’s a breakdown of our current workplan.

Deliverable

Steering Committee meeting

Data gathering of Clinics

October

Key informant interviews

Staff and client focus groups

November

Key informant interviews

Data analysis of Clinics

Literature review

December

Review of existing models

Model development

January

Key informant interviews

Infrastructure review, including IT, HR

February

Transition planning

March

Introduction to Low Income Population Data

Low income population statistics will be referred to in various contexts as we go through the GTA Legal Clinics Transformation Project. This article is an introduction to the concept, as requested by the Steering Committee.

LICO

The statistic generally used to represent the low income population in an area is Statistics Canada’s “low income cut off” statistic or LICO. Statistics Canada defines LICO as “the income below which a family is likely to spend 20 percentage points more of its income on food, shelter and clothing than the average family.” If the average family spends 43% of its before tax income on food, shelter and clothing, then the low income cut off will be families spending 63% or more of income on those necessities. That is the basic definition – the actual calculation is fairly complex and includes regression analysis. Fortunately, the data is not complex to use.

There are separate LICO’s for seven family sizes (from single persons to families of seven or more) and five community sizes (from rural areas to urban areas of 500,000 or more). This results in 35 LICO figures which are actual dollar figures. An individual or family which is below the LICO figure for the particular family size in the particular community size is considered “low income”. As Toronto, York and Peel are all communities of over 500,000, we are only concerned with the seven family size LICOs for that size of community: $23,298 for a single person.

LICO is a measure of the population which is significantly less well off than the average population – it is not intended to be a measure of “poverty”. While this may not be a perfect definition of poverty, it is the best available and the most statistically reliable. In the absence of any accepted definition of poverty, the LICO figures are regularly used by analysts as a shorthand for “low income population” and are used by the Transformation Project.

Other Measures

Other poverty measures include the Low Income Measure (LIM) which is 50% of the median household income and the Market Based Measure (MBM) which is intended to measure the minimum you need to buy food, shelter and clothing. LIM is just a measure of median incomes with no relation to what is needed to survive. MBM is a measure of absolute abject poverty. LICO is a relative measure of poverty – indicating those who are significantly worse off than the average. So far, it has been the preferred measure.

Currency of Data

All figures in this article are from the 2006 census and are thus out of date. During that time we have been through a recession. As well, there has been significant population growth in some areas of the GTA. Between the 2006 census and the 2011 census, the population of York Region has grown 16%, the Region of Peel has grown 12% and the City of Toronto has grown 4.5%. The LICO percentages may have also changed, so the change in the low income population needs to be calculated.

The GTA Transformation Project will use updated 2010 and some 2011 data, which has become available just recently.

How do I have a say?

If you are involved with a Clinic, talk to your Clinic’s Steering Committee representative about what’s happening. If you work at a Clinic you’ll be asked to have direct input. If you live in an affected community, we’ll be seeking people to participate in interviews and focus groups to give us their guidance, let us know you’d like to participate. And if you just have a really great idea, send us an email at info@gtaclinics.ca

You can stay on top of all the progress by visiting our website ww w. GT Acl i nics. ca , and have input through there as well. In the meantime, we will be putting out this newsletter once a month to let you know what’s been happening.

Thanks for taking an interest in the GTA Clinic Transformation Project.

 

GTA Clinic Transformation Project
http://www.GTAclinics.ca

Paralegal Amanda Bitton: Proud to be a full-time advocate for refugee claimants

LAO newsroom

News archives

LAO Newsroom

Paralegal Amanda Bitton is proud to be a full-time advocate for refugee claimants

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Licensed paralegal Amanda Bitton has been “excited, proud and nervous” ever since Rexdale Community Legal Centre hired her in July to support refugee claimants on a full-time basis.

She’s very aware that her new job — providing frontline services to these vulnerable clients — is part of a Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) pilot agreement to fund the cost of hiring her, and demonstrate LAO’s commitment to the appropriate use of licensed paralegals.

So she sometimes loses sleep thinking of the responsibility she’s taken on.

 Amanda Bitton

High quality services are paramount

“As a regulated professional who must meet the licensing requirements of the Law Society of Upper Canada, this is an important opportunity to demonstrate that my experience, training and ethics will result in high quality services. That’s what will be paramount,” she says. “The stakes are high for me because everybody is watching. But my main concern is that they are even higher for my clients.”

Amanda’s education includes a four-year degree in political science at McMaster University. However, she actually started working at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic while she was still a student of Humber College’s two-year Paralegal Education program, from which she graduated in June 2012.

Amanda applied to the Rexdale Community Legal Centre while she was still at Humber, to provide her with work hours toward the mandatory 14-week paid work term that’s part of Humber’s licensing requirements for students in this diploma program.

She hearts Rexdale

Her work placement at Rexdale, followed by employment there between August 2012 and January 2013, gave her experience in helping out at reception and attending intakes, hearings and interviews.

“By the end of that placement, I knew there was nowhere else I wanted to work,” she says. “I just love this clinics’ underlying philosophy of trusting colleagues and clients to come up with the most effective resolutions through working together in collaboration.”

What appealed to her most? “Clients would come in, throw a bunch of papers they couldn’t make sense of onto the desk, and ask for assistance,” she explains. “I loved being able to help people determine which issues they needed to deal with to move forward, to represent them before administrative tribunals such as the Landlord and Tenant Board, and to see them walk away and feel a bit easier about their lives.”

Amanda kept coming in as a volunteer once her paid placement at Rexdale was over, and cheerfully took on even the most basic tasks. When the prospect of applying for the refugee pilot arose, she began studying the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, signed up for training on refugee law, began attending conferences on the subject, and asked to job-shadow LAO’s refugee lawyers.

Passion, a positive attitude and an astute legal mind

“We hired her because of her passion, positive attitude, commitment to our clients and incredibly astute legal mind,” recalls LAO’s Jayne Mallin, who headed up Rexdale’s legal clinic at the time.

“We had recognized very early on in Amanda’s placement, through her handling of intake and while assisting with research and factum writing – where her legal analysis was always accurate, thoughtful, and solution focused – that she is a very high quality paralegal.”

Today Amanda’s responsibilities include interviewing refugee claimants, helping them fill in the forms they need to complete to apply for refugee status in Canada, and representing these vulnerable individuals, under the supervision of a lawyer, at the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

“If my Mom had known about what community legal clinics could do for families like ours, if we’d had someone advocating for us like I can advocate for my clients, she would have had fewer struggles,”

Advocacy, accessibility and affordability

An LAO staff lawyer and LAO’s district office staff review Amanda’s paperwork once it’s completed. While Amanda is qualified to appear on her own before the RPD, an LAO lawyer will accompany her to hearings for the first six months of the pilot. This interim measure will ensure that clients are receiving high quality services and provide her with further training.

She’s pleased to be on a career path that goes back to her childhood in a single parent family. “If my Mom had known about what community legal clinics could do for families like ours, if we’d had someone advocating for us like I can advocate for my clients, she would have had fewer struggles,” she says.

“It’s all about accessibility and affordability,” she adds. “Sometimes only a lawyer can do the job. But we are a more affordable alternative in situations where a paralegal is qualified to do the same job. Here at Rexdale, I can provide quality legal services within my scope of practice for refugees whose very lives could depend on their ability to access resources and justice in a meaningful way.”

Questions

For questions or further information, please contact:

Josephine Li
Communications advisor
Phone: 416-979-2352, ext.6015
Email: lijos@lao.on.ca and/or media@lao.on.ca

http://legalaid.on.ca/en/news/newsarchive/1309-20_AmandaBitton.asp

REXDALE COMMUNITY LEGAL CLINIC: 2013 Annual General Meeting

Thanks to everyone who attended our Annual General Meeting, including our community partners Albion Neighbourhood Services, Rexdale Women’s Centre, Rexdale Community Health Centre, Somali Business Development Centre, Dejinta Beesha, Rexdale Community Hub, our staff, students, and volunteers, our board of directors, and our community!

We also appreciate and would like to acknowledge the presence of Legal Aid Ontario including Professor John McCamus, Chair of the Board of Directors , Vicki Moretti, Vice President GTA Region,  Cynthia Harper, Director of Poverty Law Services, Catherine Sutherland, Poverty Law Coordinator, and Jayne Mallin, Senior Counsel and Special Advisor to the GTA Clinic Transformation Project.

We also want to extend our gratitude to The Honorable Ted McMeekin, Minister of Community & Social Services, for providing insights into recent changes to OW and ODSP, as well as Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy.

Special thanks to the Broken Silence Dance Crew for providing entertainment!

 Director of Legal Services Ann McRae, Chair of the Board of RCLC Robert Reynolds, and Treasurer Anita Billing  Chair of the Board of Directors for Legal Aid Ontario Professor John McCamus
 The Honorable Ted McMeekin, Minister of Community and Social Services  The Minister address changes to OW & ODSP as well as Ontario's poverty reduction strategy.
 Director of Administration Itallica Battiston  Broken Silence Dance Crew
 Broken Silence Dance Crew  agm_8sml

Our Annual Report is now available online:

http://www.rexdalecommunitylegalclinic.ca/Annual_Report.pdf

LAO newsroom: LAO invests an additional $3 million in community and legal clinics

LAO newsroom

News archives

LAO Newsroom

LAO invests an additional $3 million in community and legal clinics

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

 

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is investing additional provincial funding of $3 million in 2013/14 to create two new funds that support Ontario’s community and legal aid clinics. This support includes:

LAO’s budget commitment

“…additional funding of $30 million over three years [$10 million annually, beginning in 2013/14] will be provided to Legal Aid Ontario. 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.”
— Government of Ontario Budget, May 3, 2013

  • $2 million to create a Fund to Strengthen the Capacity of Community and Legal Clinics, which will achieve the objectives of Ontario’s 2013 budget and

  • $1 million to create a Clinic Transformation Fund that will advance LAO’s clinic modernization program through clinic transformation and future savings.

This $3 million is 30 per cent of the $10 million in additional funding LAO is receiving from the government for 2013/14, as announced in the May 2013 budget. LAO will invest the remaining 70 per cent of the new funding in family law initiatives.

In addition to this $3 million, for 2013/14, LAO is also providing Ontario’s clinics with:

  • $67.8 million in core funding and

  • $4.15 million in special project funding to upgrade aging information technology infrastructure including desktops, laptops, monitors, and Microsoft Office Exchange. This support comes from a $3.25 million grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario, plus $900,000 from LAO’s own funding allocation.

 

Questions

For questions or further information, please contact:

Kristian Justesen
Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations Group
Phone: 416-979-2352, ext.4782
Email: justesk@lao.on.ca and/or media@lao.on.ca