“Governments have an obligation to represent and support all people,” says justice minister
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti has criticized the Ontario government over reduced legal aid funding.
In a letter addressed to Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey, Lametti said that provincial government’s “rejection of shared responsibility for legal aid is an ‘excuse for spending cuts’ that will leave many of the province’s most vulnerable at greater risk,” the Canadian Press reported.
In the letter, he stressed that the federal government places high premium on working with its provincial counterparts on matters relating to legal aid.
“It will perhaps come as no surprise that I strongly disagree with the path that Premier (Doug) Ford has chosen,” Lametti wrote.
The conflict between the Liberal-led federal and Ontario’s Progressive Conservative governments has emerged in the limelight as the federal elections draw near, and it appears both parties are just getting started.
The Ford government is cutting down on funding for refugee and immigration law services provided by Legal Aid Ontario, contesting that refugee claims and immigration claims are the federal government’s responsibility.
Lametti, however, said that Ontario is abandoning its responsibility to its people. He argued that annual provincial allocations for immigrants’ and refugees’ legal aid are based on a formula that was agreed upon by all of Canada’s provinces and territories, with Ontario receiving 62 to 74 per cent of the total annual federal funding over the past five years.
“An approach on the part of the Ontario government that departs from that co-operative precedent and seeks to obscure that shared responsibility as an excuse for spending cuts will leave many of the province’s most vulnerable people at increased risk and without legal protection,” he wrote.
“Governments have an obligation to represent and support all people, not just the people who can afford to hire legal representation.”