Comic book helps newcomers find legal resources

Created through Law Foundation of Ontario grant

Comic book helps newcomers find legal resources
Tanya Lee, CEO of The Law Foundation of Ontario, says KEYS’ comic idea addresses linguistic concerns or literacy limitations alongside legal education

A Kingston, Ont.-based jobs center is using the power of comic books to get the word out about legal services and rights.

KEYS Job Centre released an eight-page illustrated book, Newcomers Facing Labour Struggles, in July to help community workers who assist immigrants with legal issues.

The story involves four immigrants in high-stakes situations — experiencing wage theft, unable to get credentials recognized in their fields, being paid under the table and other discrimination-related challenges — who cross paths in unexpected ways. The book also includes a list of legal resources and is available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Persian, Mandarin and Kirundi.

The Law Foundation of Ontario helped fund the project to help frontline community workers understand what’s available to clients who have communication impairments, do not speak English or French or live outside the Ottawa and Toronto hubs. KEYS Job Centre got nearly $50,000 in 2017 to work on training community leaders on employment, occupational health and safety, public safety and immigration law, LFO’s website said.

Tanya Lee, CEO of The Law Foundation of Ontario, says KEYS’ comic idea addresses linguistic concerns or literacy limitations alongside legal education.

“They were looking to train people who work in resettlement organizations or employment counselors, to provide better information — particularly to newcomers — about their rights within the employment context,” she says. “Our grant funded the training sessions themselves, and from our reports, about 125 people attended those workshops. But what I think they found is [the community workers] wanted a tool they could use with their clients to explain the rights, and that’s where the comic book idea came in.”

She says KEYS is one of the LFO’s Connecting Communities grantees, of a total of 41 grants or $2 million awarded across the province.

“What was nice about this was it was a community-based organization that led it. Along with immigration agencies, there were a lot of people who provided legal expertise, including Pro Bono Students Canada, the local community legal clinic and private lawyers do pro bono assistance as well,” she says. “When people have a legal problem, they probably don’t go to the lawyer first of all, particularly in this group of newcomers who are seeking employment and just starting out. It’s about recognizing that they are going to be connecting with other community agencies …. and giving those community agencies some ability to give basic legal information and referrals.”

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