Improving access to justice for racialized communities

Legal Aid Ontario's Racialized Community Strategy goes on the road to meet with communities

TORONTO, July 17, 2017 /CNW/ - Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is developing a strategy to identify the legal needs and to protect the legal rights of racialized communities in Ontario's justice system. Between now and December, LAO representatives will be talking to community groups throughout the province to determine what initiatives will improve racialized communities' access to justice.

LAO's Racialized Communities Strategy began in 2016 with the aim to improve and expand legal aid services for racialized communities. This comes at a critical juncture in Ontario's justice system:

  • Over the last 15 years, the population of racialized persons incarcerated in federal institutions has increased by almost 75 per cent, while the population of white inmates decreased by 3 per cent. 
  • 41 per cent of the children and youth in the care of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto are Black. Yet only 8.2 per cent of Toronto's population under the age of 18 is Black.

During the past year, LAO, through its Racialized Communities Strategy, has met with agencies throughout Ontario that serve racialized communities. That initial consultation led to a pilot project, announced in June, offering grants to two community organizations that will help Black students who are suspended or expelled. It also informed a number of test cases with racialized communities through LAO's test case program.

More information on LAO's Racialized Communities Strategy, and its newly-released discussion paper, can be found at http://www.legalaid.on.ca/rcs

QUOTES

"Over 20 years ago, the Report of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System came to a 'conclusion that is inescapable: some Black accused who were imprisoned before trial would not have been jailed if they had been white, and some white accused who were freed before trial would have been detained had they been Black.' The consultations being done by the Racialized Communities Strategy is an important step to bringing about not only access to justice, but important change."

- Kimberly Roach, Lead, Racialized Communities Strategy, Legal Aid Ontario

"The experience of racialized communities in the Canadian justice system is one that is marked by overrepresentation and unequal treatment. This has been highlighted by several studies and reports going back decades. Understanding these realities, and how Legal Aid Ontario can contribute to preventing them, is a key component of Legal Aid Ontario's mandate."

- John McCamus, Chair, Legal Aid Ontario

SOURCE Legal Aid Ontario

For further information: Media requests: Graeme Burk, Communications Advisor, Phone: (416) 979-2352 ext. 5208, Cell: (416) 347-7862, Email: media@lao.on.ca

RELATED LINKS
http://www.legalaid.on.ca

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