LAO is one of the only organizations in Ontario’s justice system to collect such data
Legal Aid Ontario’s recently released race-based statistics point toward an overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous individuals among its clients.
“Black Ontarians make up 4.7% of the population according to the most recently available data from Statistics Canada, yet comprise 17.2% of LAO’s clients (and 14.3% of its clients in criminal law),” said LAO in a news release. “Indigenous peoples make up 3.8% of Ontario’s population but comprise 13.8% of LAO clients (19.8% of clients in criminal law).”
For civil law matters, Black people make up 17 per cent of LAO’s clients, while Indigenous people comprise 15.8 per cent of LAO’s clients.
This information is gathered from LAO’s legal aid certificates, which cover all areas of law, for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Clients may voluntarily state whether they self-identify as part of a racialized group, and if yes, how they identify themselves.
In 2018, LAO started keeping track of race-based data as a part of its commitment to more effectively serve its clients. LAO said that it is currently one of the only organizations in Ontario’s justice sector to collect this type of information.
LAO decided to publicize the anonymized datasets so that researchers, stakeholders, advocates and students who seek to help in improving the justice system can also make use of the information. LAO itself is utilizing these statistics for its Racialized Communities Strategy and its Aboriginal Justice Strategy, as well as for its final report and action plan.