Premier Ford shuffled his cabinet, but the Conservative cuts are still happening. MPP Doug Downey was appointed the new Attorney General, but he has not reversed the damaging cuts to legal aid public services. Many groups are taking urgent action to save Legal Aid . In Toronto, you can take action by joining Parkdale Community Legal Services at their community rally to Reverse Legal Aid Cuts on Tuesday, July 30 from 8:30 – 9:30 am at King St. W. and Jameson Ave. Let’s stand up and support this legal clinic that plays a crucial role in our work at the Workers’ Action Centre, supporting workers facing violations of their rights. You can also send the Premier and the Attorney General an email to stop the cuts, which are deep enough to shut down certain specialty legal clinics and decrease services for everyone in our communities.
Workers haven’t stopped pushing back against these unfair cuts. Several Workers’ Action Centre members participated in our city-wide actions to stop the cuts to legal aid. In this edition of Stories from the Frontlines, we spoke with Carolina, one of our leaders, who is passionate about preserving access to justice in our communities.
Workers’ Action Centre: What do you see happening to the legal system right now?
Carolina: I see over $130 million in cuts to legal aid services that will cut off low-income people, immigrants, and so many others from access to justice. This will hurt racialized people, migrants, women and families  as the government allows our rights to be violated. Everyone should have access to the legal clinics and lawyers that work with the help of these funds. Without access to justice, refugees fleeing violence won’t receive all the help they need. Tenants may not get enough help to fight illegal evictions. And the list goes on.
What do these changes mean for workers in your community?
Carolina: This matters so much to us as workers because our basic rights are violated over and over again as part of the bad boss business model! We often have to take legal action, especially since the Conservative government put a pause on labour law enforcement. On May 31, our Fight for $15 and Fairness team protested in front of the office of MPP Robin Martin in Eglinton-Lawrence. Our message was very clear: As migrant workers and others in precarious jobs, we won’t tolerate legal aid cuts. MPP Robin Martin completely ignored us. Her office door never opened to us, her constituents, as we asked her to stop the cuts.
How do you feel about the effects these cuts are having on our community here at the Workers’ Action Centre?
Carolina: It’s infuriating to see the government making it more difficult to help workers stand up against bosses who break the law. These cuts that Premier Ford is allowing are a betrayal of the “little guy” who can’t afford a lawyer. Samy is one of the many low-income workers that call the Workers’ Action Centre for help. For years, his employer failed to give him his full pay. With his wages stolen, how could he hope to afford a lawyer? Parkdale Community Legal Services began helping him get back years of unpaid wages–and then we got news of the legal aid cuts. At our information sessions, workers depend on the free legal advice of lawyers or students from Parkdale Legal to help them with serious work problems. But now Parkdale Legal is one of the hardest hit clinics, losing almost 50% of its funding . Other legal clinics that help workers with problems from wage theft to workplace injuries are also losing lots of funding and staff and could end up closing. If these clinics close, winning back our hard-earned wages will get much harder. That’s why we need to reverse the cuts.
What are people doing right now to fight back?
Carolina: The first thing workers are doing is making sure people know how to defend their own rights at work. Even though the government fails to enforce workers’ rights and threatens the legal clinics that help us, workers can still learn different ways to protect our rights (read these free factsheets). But there’s no way we’re giving up on saving public legal services! We are asking people to send an email to the Premier and the Attorney General, telling them to stop the cuts. Community members can also call Attorney General Doug Downey’s constituency office at 1-800-518-7901 and tell him to reverse the cuts now!
Take just a few minutes to call the Attorney General or send an email to stop the cuts, and share this email with your friends. If you are in Toronto, join Parkdale Community Legal Services at their Rally to Reverse Legal Aid Cuts on Tuesday, July 30. By joining Parkdale on this day of action, you also support what we do at the Workers’ Action Centre.