As many of you are aware, Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) is at risk of having to close their court-based programs currently delivered through three Law Help Centres located in Toronto and Ottawa on December 14, 2018.
PBO, a registered charity created 17 years ago to improve access to the civil justice system in Ontario for low-income Ontarians who cannot afford a lawyer, has been a key player in encouraging volunteer lawyers to donate millions of dollars’ worth of free legal services at the Centres. This has helped more than 18,000 clients move through the civil justice system more efficiently than they would without such support.
FOLA recognizes that these centres unarguably help thousands of low-income people access the courts. These centres also save the province millions of dollars every year through easing administration and speeding up procedures, mostly by making litigants’ interactions with judges and court staff more efficient.
Unfortunately, PBO has, for the past three years, been unable to secure sustainable funding. Relying on emergency funding blocks since 2016, coupled with rapid demand for services, has resulted in their current situation.
At the end of October 2018, FOLA became aware of PBO’s financial situation and has been called on to support PBO in their effort to secure funding from either the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Law Society of Ontario, or the Ministry of the Attorney General (or a mix of all three).
As soon as we spoke to the PBO team, we then spoke to representatives in the Attorney General’s office as well as representatives at the Law Society and both reported that they are trying to work with PBO to find sustainable funding, but neither are willing (or able) to offer further emergency funding.
It is with confidence that FOLA can say all parties are interested in working with PBO to help them in developing and executing a fundraising plan that can ensure long-term, sustainable funding with the help of the private sector.
Some useful links:
To learn more about PBO’s impact and the work they do, please read their Return on Investment Study.
To learn more about their latest filings with the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency), you can do so here.
FOLA's article in AdovateDaily can be viewed here.
The Carleton County Law Assocation's Letter to Ontario's Attorney General and the Law Society of Ontario's Treasurer can be viewed here.
To donate to PBO’s GoFundMe campaign, please click here.
OTHER PRO BONO SERVICES IN ONTARIO
Justice for Children and Youth is a speciality legal clinic which provides legal services for young people under 18 and homeless youth under 25 in Ontario. They also provide basic, understandable legal information for parents.