Feds to fund Ontario free legal organization for another year

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Pro Bono Ontario, a legal organization helping people through civil litigation for free has won a shut-down reprieve after the federal government stepped up with funding to complement donations.

In a statement, Pro Bono Ontario said it would now be able to keep its centres, which were slated to close Dec. 14, open throughout 2019.

Earlier this month, the organization cited a lack of stable funding for a decision to shut down the centres after years of “absorbing the burden of unrepresented litigants” in the civil courts.

According to the organization, the Department of Justice agreed to kick in $250,000, while another $275,000 has been donated by law firms, individual lawyers, and law associations.

Pro Bono Ontario operates two court-based centres in Toronto and a third in Ottawa. They provide free legal services to low-income Ontarians with civil and small claims matters.

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Since 2010, when Legal Aid Ontario cut its civil-certificate program, the centres have been the only organized response to those in civil litigation unable to access lawyers, Pro Bono said. The centres have provided in-person and telephone consultations to a growing number of people who are referred by legal aid offices and courts throughout the province.

In 2017, for example, the centres served more than 18,500 clients – a 10-fold increase in 10 years, Pro Bono said.

Pro Bono said it has struggled for years to secure the resources needed to meet the growing demand for services. -CINEWS

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