Sudbury·New

Sudbury legal aid clinic 'stretched thin' after provincial cutbacks

Sudbury's legal aid clinic is still reeling from cuts imposed by the provincial government.

Province knocks $133 million out of legal assistance program targeting low-income earners

Allison Woods, the acting executive director of the Sudbury Community Legal Clinic, said increased demands on the office means her staff are stretched very thin. (Jessica Pope/CBC)

Officials with Sudbury's legal aid clinic say they're still reeling from cuts imposed by the provincial government.

The Sudbury Community Legal Clinic is funded by Legal Aid Ontario, which was hit with a $133 million budget cut in 2019.

Following the cuts, Its member agencies found themselves with some serious belt-tightening to do. 

They reduced the number of days they are available to clients. They currently only have "intake days" three days of the week, down from four.

Allison Woods, the acting executive director of the Sudbury Community Legal Clinic, said staff are stretched very thin. 

"We can already see it's taking a toll on some of our staff," Woods said. "The extra hours, the extra workload." 

"It puts us in a very difficult position because obviously it's our job to represent clients to the absolute fullest that that we can," Woods said. "So [the cutbacks] definitely affected the way that we're able to to represent our clients."

Most of their clients are low-income, receiving social assistance like Ontario Works or Ontario Disability. Living in substandard housing is common for her clients, Woods said.

Woods said the clinic now has very little money to pay for important documents on behalf of clients, which are needed to fully and properly litigate their cases. 

"If we weren't there to provide these services, a lot of our clients would be trying to do these same appeals on their own, which is not only –  I mean that's not access to justice, if you ask me – but it also has the potential to really slow down tribunals and to really bog down the system," she said.

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