Les cliniques juridiques communautaires de l’Ontario et l’accès à la justice en français
Keywords:access to justice, language rights, law and poverty, community legal clinics, community law, legal reform
Bill 161, the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, establishes a new framework for delivering legal aid services in the province and proposes changes to governance and areas of practice for community legal clinics. What are the potential implications of Bill 161 for the Francophone population in Ontario? This is the question I seek to answer in this two-part article. Part I provides an overview of the history of legal aid in Ontario, revealing how community legal clinics were created to respond to the specific legal needs of low-income individuals in Ontario. I then describe the key characteristics of community legal clinics. Part II examines each characteristic through the lens of the specific needs of Ontario’s Francophone community and analyzes some of the amendments proposed in Bill 161. I also propose amendments to the bill that would enable clinics to better serve Francophone litigants in the province. In conclusion, I encourage the new French Language Services Commissioner to reflect upon the potential negative repercussions of this bill for the province’s most vulnerable Francophone populations.