McGuinty Government Improves Access To Justice



    Increased Legal Aid Funding To Provide More Services To Vulnerable
    Ontarians

    TORONTO, April 13 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is proposing to improve
access to justice for vulnerable people by increasing funding for Legal Aid
Ontario by $51 million, as announced in the recent provincial budget, Attorney
General Michael Bryant announced today.
    "We are strengthening Legal Aid Ontario now and for the future," said
Bryant. "We are working to ensure that Legal Aid Ontario remains the strongest
and most dynamic legal aid system in the country."
    The new funding would enhance access to legal services, helping the most
vulnerable Ontarians, including victims of domestic violence. These people
might otherwise have to go through complex proceedings involving child
support, custody and access cases without a lawyer. As well as supporting
access to justice, this funding would address the impact of guns and gang
cases and increase the legal aid tariff rate for lawyers.
    "This is a great day for access to justice in Ontario; in particular this
new investment demonstrates the Attorney General's powerful leadership and
commitment to access to justice. He is to be commended," said Janet Leiper,
Chair of the Legal Aid Ontario Board of Directors. "We are particularly
pleased that the Attorney General has spoken directly to the needs of
vulnerable families across Ontario and the legal practitioners who make these
services available."
    Legal Aid Ontario is an arm's length agency of government. The Province
is Legal Aid Ontario's largest funder. The new funding would be awarded over
three years, including $15 million in 2007-08. The McGuinty government has
increased funding to Legal Aid Ontario every year since it took office,
something no other government has done in 13 years.
    "We are very, very pleased with this budget initiative," said James
Morton, President of the Ontario Bar Association. "This will be enough to
allow more people to get legal aid assistance and speed up the system."
    "With this additional funding for Legal Aid Ontario, the government has
assured that more low-income Ontarians will have proper representation in our
legal system," said Louise Botham, President of the Criminal Lawyers'
Association.
    "This announcement is most significant in that it marks the beginning of
a new chapter in increasing access to justice for Ontario's most vulnerable,"
said Paul Kowalyshyn, Chair of the County and District Law Presidents'
Association. "The Ontario government is ensuring that those persons in Ontario
who require legal aid services the most will now have a much-improved
opportunity to receive them."
    Increasing funding to Legal Aid Ontario is only one way the new budget
works to strengthen Ontario's justice system. Other initiatives designed to
offer aid to victims of crime and increase access to justice include:

    
    -   Investing an additional $8 million over three years in Ontario's
        human rights system
    -   Investing $49 million over three years to expedite the process for
        compensating victims of violent crime by the Criminal Injuries
        Compensation Board and establish new programs to provide services to
        victims in the immediate aftermath of violent crime, while the
        current compensation system is being reviewed
    -   Passing the Access to Justice Act, which regulates paralegals, to
        modernize the justice system
    -   Funding for 30 additional justices of the peace, in addition to the
        74 justices of the peace appointed since October 2003, to help ensure
        that Ontario courts have adequate resources and improve access to
        justice. The Attorney General has also appointed 65 judges to the
        Ontario Court of Justice since taking office.

    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca


    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                              LEGAL AID ONTARIO
    

    Legal Aid Ontario is an arm's length agency that administers Ontario's
legal aid system. Its mandate is to promote access to justice across Ontario
by providing high-quality legal aid services to low-income individuals in a
cost-effective and efficient manner. With an annual budget of more than
$300 million, Legal Aid Ontario helps more than one million people each year
through certificate, duty counsel and clinic programs. Since its inception in
1999, Legal Aid Ontario has become a vital partner of the justice system in
Ontario.

    The Development of Legal Aid in Ontario

    Pre-1967: There was no publicly funded legal aid system. Lawyers provided
limited legal aid without charge.

    1967: The Ontario Legal Aid Plan was established. It was financed by the
Ontario government and managed by the Law Society of Upper Canada.

    1996-97: John D. McCamus, a former dean of Osgoode Hall Law School,
chaired an independent, comprehensive review of the legal aid system,
delivering the report "Blueprint for Publicly Funded Legal Services". It was
the first comprehensive review of Ontario's legal aid system in its 30-year
history.

    1998: The Legal Aid Services Act was passed.

    1999: Legal Aid Ontario was established.

    2004: Janet Leiper was appointed Chair of Legal Aid Ontario.

    2007: The government retained Professor McCamus to update his historic
report on legal aid and to investigate ways to review the rates paid to
lawyers doing legal aid work. Professor McCamus has now begun background
research on developments since his 1997 report. He will work collaboratively
with Legal Aid Ontario and will soon set up a process for consultations to
solicit the views of stakeholders.

    Funding

    The government of Ontario is Legal Aid Ontario's largest funder. In the
2007 budget, the Ontario government announced $51 million in new funding for
Legal Aid Ontario over three years, including $15 million in 2007-08.

    
    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca
    





For further information:

For further information: Greg Crone, Ministry of the Attorney General,
Minister's Office, (416) 326-1785; Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the Attorney
General, Communications Branch, (416) 326-2210

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Ontario Ministry of The Attorney General

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