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West Toronto clinic gets funding lifeline

|Written By Yamri Taddese

West Toronto Community Legal Services will keep its doors open as Legal Aid Ontario has agreed to continue funding it for the time being.

Lawyer Barbara Warner is among the staff affected by the funding decision at West Toronto Community Legal Services. Photo: Breanne Nicholson

The clinic’s future had been in jeopardy after LAO said it would withdraw its support due to “financial, governance, and human resource management concerns.”

The clinic receives about $600,000 per year from Legal Aid Ontario, its sole funder. It provides legal services to up to 1,000 clients every year. But after LAO expressed concerns about the clinic’s operations, the money was going to run out on March 31.

But last week, LAO announced that its clinic committee board had approved a submission that will see the clinic receive continued funding while it addresses the concerns.

“LAO has stipulated terms and conditions related to board governance, operational and financial management, and LAO oversight,” LAO said in a press release.

“These terms and conditions will help LAO maintain its legal requirements to provide appropriate oversight, value for taxpayers, and delivery of high-quality legal services to the community in west Toronto.”

The new agreement “defers reconsideration” of LAO’s clinic committee board decision not to approve the clinic’s funding application, says LAO spokesman Kristian Justesen.

“LAO staff recognize that [the clinic] has started to demonstrate genuine effort to improve client services and help ensure the effective use of public funds in terms of moving in the right direction to address persistent financial, governance, and human resources management,” says Justesen, adding that the deal will give the clinic eight months to build on recent improvements.

LAO won’t release the terms and conditions of the continued funding until the clinic has received them in writing, says Justesen. “This time frame provides [the clinic] with two fiscal quarters to demonstrate its efforts to address the clinic’s persistent financial, governance, and human resources management issues.”

For more, see "Toronto legal clinic in jeopardy."

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