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.


Justice for Children and Youth

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.

Pro Bono Students Canada

  • Appeals Assistance Project Crown Wardship Pilot Program: volunteers assist unrepresented, low income litigants appealing crown wardship no access orders.
  • Civil Court Project (Toronto): a Pro Bono Law Ontario self-help centre at the Superior Court in Toronto to assists low-income, unrepresented civil litigants.
  • Duty Counsel for Law Society Discipline Committee Hearings: volunteer lawyers assist unrepresented solicitors at Law Society Discipline Committee Hearings.
  • Eviction Prevention Project (Western): assists low-income renters facing eviction proceedings.
  • Family Law Project - relies on volunteers from all six Ontario law schools to provide services to unrepresented litigants in Windsor, Kingston, Ottawa, London, Toronto, North York, Milton and Brampton.
  • Federal Court Assistance Project: provides low-income, unrepresented litigants in the Federal Court with the assistance of counsel on matters with a reasonable prospect of success.
  • Health Law Student Advocacy Project (Toronto, Osgoode, Ottawa): helps unrepresented complainants by providing legal information, offering assistance with written submissions, and appearing on their behalf before the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB). The HPARB reviews decisions made by the Complaints Committees of Ontario’s health professions Colleges.
  • Immigration and Refugee Detention Centre Project (Osgoode, Toronto): volunteer students go to provincial detention centres to present information to detainees on the immigration and refugee law process in Canada.
  • Judicial Plea: The Appeals Assistance Project: matches volunteers to low-income, unrepresented litigants for civil appeals. Services range from brief advice to full representation, including attendance at hearings.
  • Justice Ontario: a website and phone hotline provides Ontarians with a one-stop entry point for accessing legal resources and basic information on the most common justice-related topics. A project of the Ministry of the Attorney General, it also provides easy access to legal resources such as lawyer referral services and family law information centres.
  • Not-for-Profit Corporate Law Project (Toronto): addresses the vital business needs of non-profit organizations in Ontario in the areas of incorporation, charitable status registration, corporate maintenance and governance, and others.
  • Ontario Securities Commission Litigation Assistance Program: offers volunteer litigation services to unrepresented respondents appearing in enforcement proceedings for the Ontario Securities Commission.
  • Rural Entrepreneurial Legal Handbook Project (Queen’s): helps provide legal information to rural communities by researching and developing legal resources for rural communities in Eastern Ontario. Student volunteers are working to produce a legal handbook for entrepreneurs starting small, rural businesses in the region.
  • Small Claims Court Project (Toronto): provides general procedural and legal information enabling these individuals to complete the court process as independently as possible. In addition to providing information, a duty counsel lawyer can attend hearings or settlement conferences, help clients identify the legal issues related to their case, provide information on the rules and procedures of small claims court and answer general legal questions.
  • Tax Court of Canada Advocacy Project: offers representation to appellants in the informal procedure, with claims under $25,000. This project also operates in Quebec and is a pilot project in Nova Scotia.
  • Wills Project (Toronto, Osgoode): volunteers draft wills and powers of attorney for low-income clients.