The Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, a community legal clinic that provides services to low-income clients from the Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian communities, has announced that it will be appealing a decision by Legal Aid Ontario to reduce its budget.
LAO slashed the budget of all community legal clinics following a $133-million funding cut by the Ontario provincial government. Aside from cutting CSALC’s funding by 1.2 per cent of its annual budget, LAO also announced that it will not provide any in-year increases — including provisions for increases in rent. CSALC’s current lease will expire on Sept. 30 and the clinic is facing a 250-per-cent increase in rent from Oct. 1 onwards.
In a statement, the clinic said that its request to help cover the increase in rent for the remainder of the year was denied.
“On paper, we only get a small percentage cut, but because LAO has refused to cover our rent increase, we have to lay off staff just to pay for our rent beginning on Oct. 1, 2019,” said Avvy Go, the clinic’s director. “While Premier [Doug] Ford and the former attorney general have repeatedly stated that there will be no cuts to direct client service, we know that with fewer clinic staff, our clients will receive less legal services. Despite the cuts, LAO has directed legal clinics to maintain the same level of client services. The result will be that our remaining staff will have to take on an even greater workload in order for CSALC to meet this unreasonable directive.”
In response to the cuts, the clinic has said that it will be filing a formal request to LAO to reconsider its decision to not pay the increased rent. The clinic will also seek to meet with new provincial Attorney General Doug Downey to discuss the impact of the cuts on all community legal clinics.
“Just over two years ago, [the clinic] received additional funding from LAO to expand our services from GTA to province wide,” said Jason Huang-Kung, vice president of the clinic. “If the government continues to cut funding to LAO, which in turn passes the cuts to clinics, we may have to stop serving clients from outside of the GTA.”
The clinic serves about 2,700 clients and community members each year through direct services (including legal assistance, advice, referral and representation), workshops and the distribution of legal education material. CSALC also conducts law reform activities through test case litigation and lobbying.