All posts by cowleyc


LAO releases racialized communities strategy paper ahead of consultations

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) will be holding a series of in-person and online sessions this fall to meet with clients, lawyers, community legal clinics and other community agencies to talk about some of the issues faced by racialized communities when it comes to getting the legal services they need.

Ahead of those meetings, LAO is making its consultation paper available as a starting point for discussion.

In June of 2016, LAO announced that it was developing a strategy. Since then, LAO has had over a year of discussions with those who work with racialized communities and the justice system. Those meetings largely focused on legal issues that various communities were facing and needed services for, and how LAO could enhance the services it provides.

“We’ve already started addressing some of what we’ve heard,” says Kimberly Roach, who is leading the Racialized Communities Strategy. “One thing we consistently heard was that a lot of people don’t speak or read English—and being able to learn about what their rights are goes a long way towards empowering people. So, we made it a point to translate some of our most requested brochures into the top requested languages.”

Kimberly also points to the recent announcement of LAO’s grants for helping Black students facing suspension or expulsion hearings as another example of early work LAO has already done as part of its Racialized Communities Strategy.

“What we’re focusing on this Fall is talking directly to people from all of these various communities in addition to continuing our discussions with the organizations that serve them,” says Kimberly. “We want to hear about the hurdles they’re facing when it comes to getting the legal help they need. And we want to work together on solutions.”

Consultation dates will be announced as they become available. Requests for meetings are encouraged so LAO can arrange, where possible, to have an interpreter to help facilitate discussions. In the meantime, LAO welcomes written submissions either through our website or by emailing


For more information

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Coroner’s inquest jury finds implicit bias played a role in the death of Andrew Loku

On July 5, 2015, Andrew Loku, a South Sudanese refugee suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder connected to torture he suffered after being kidnapped in Sudan, was shot and killed by Toronto police officers responding to an emergency call about a man with a hammer threatening to kill someone.

An inquest into his death examined the circumstances in order to prevent future fatalities.

LAO provided funding to the Black Action Defence Committee and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Empowerment Council to participate in the inquest. The arguments by the two parties regarding the impact of race and mental health in policing and the justice system align with key issues that LAO’s Mental Health Strategy and Racialized Communities Strategy look at.

Among the 39 recommendations made by the coroner’s jury, at least 17 of them deal with recognizing and addressing implicit bias and anti-Black racism. Some of those recommendations include:

  • training police on implicit bias and anti-Black racism
  • collecting and making available race-based data
  • requiring police officers to complete the Implicit Association Test



CBC: Implicit bias and anti-black racism the core of Andrew Loku inquest findings

LAO provided test case funding to the Black Action Defense Committee and the Empowerment Council to participate in the coroner’s inquest of Andrew Loku’s death.

The jury that crafted the 39 recommendations coming out of the inquest into the police shooting death of Andrew Loku in 2015 made it clear that racial bias is prevalent across society and needs to be addressed.

Source: CBC (article available in English only)

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Community Legal Clinic Launches New Name, New Logo and New Services

June 16, 2017 / Toronto / The Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSALC) today launches its new name, a new logo and a new province-wide toll free number.

As of today, MTCSALC will change its name to Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (CSALC). It will also have a new toll-free number: 1-844-971-9674 in order to serve low income, non-English speaking members of the Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian communities living anywhere in Ontario.

Prior to this change, MTCSALC’s mandate was limited to serving mainly low income members of the Chinese & Southeast Asian communities living in the Greater Toronto Area. MTCSALC received additional funding from Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) which allows it to expand its services province wide.

“Thanks to the Ontario Government, LAO has received a significant injection of new funding over the last couple of years, part of which has gone into the legal clinic system. LAO recognizes the important services that our clinic has provided to our communities and has agreed to give us new funding not only to enhance our existing services, but also to expand our services province wide,” said Avvy Go, Clinic Director of CSALC. “With the additional funding, we will now be able to provide summary advice and referral services by telephone to low income member of our communities living anywhere in Ontario. After serving the communities for 30 years, our clinic has finally received some much needed new resources to serve our clients’ needs,” added Go.

In view of the new and expanded mandate, CSALC has also launched a new logo to mark the beginning of a new era. “The new logo depicts a bridge, which symbolizes our clinic’s role in bridging the gaps between members of our communities and the justice system. It also represents our resolve to help break down barriers in access to justice for all low income marginalized communities in society,” said Vince Wong, staff lawyer of CSALC and a member of the logo design team.

“OCASI welcomes the launch of the province-wide service by the Clinic and commends Legal Aid Ontario on funding this much-needed expansion. Whether it is called MTCSALC or CSALC, this community based legal clinic has been a key partner of OCASI for many years in advocating for the rights of immigrants, refugees and racialized communities. As a provincial umbrella organization, we are very much aware of how invaluable such a service can be in communities across Ontario, especially for those who live and work in remote and rural areas” said Amy Casipullai, Senior Coordinator Policy and Communications at OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.


Avvy Go

Domestic Violence Strategy summary of feedback received from consultation

French training session available for for Victims and Survivors of Crime week

The following are details of a French-only training session offered on June 1.

For several years, many women have gone public (media) about their experiences with sexual assault. For example, last week, our colleague Josée Laramée posted a video on Facebook about her own experience. This video has been seen 23,000 times and shared 300 times. These figures demonstrate the need to talk about this. The Centre d’Aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (CALACS) francophone d’Ottawa is offering a training session on June 1, 2017 for Victims and Survivors of Crime week.

Training outline

  • What impacts are there on survivors when they reveal their experiences in the mass media?
  • What evidence is admissible during a trial?

If you would like to have the tools to understand and help survivors who have shared their experiences on social media, join us for this session. Spots are limited. The price includes meal, certificate, attestation and a book of resources.

Registration form:

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LAO talks to CTV about the importance of cultural assessment reports

On May 10, 2017, Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO) Wayne van der Meide was on CTV’s “Your Morning” to talk to Anne Marie Mediwake about the potential use of cultural assessment reports to get Ontario judges to consider systemic racism when sentencing offenders from racialized communities.

You can either listen to or read the transcript through the following links:

Transcript of CTV interview

The importance of cultural assessment reports in court

[Start of recorded material 00:00:00]

>> Anne Marie: Judges in Canada are being urged to take systemic racism into account before sentencing people who have been convicted. Representatives for Legal Aid Ontario say they plan to start nudging Ontario judges to use so-called cultural assessments in the near future. Now this is not meant to be a get-out-of-jail-free card, but rather to give judges a fuller picture of who the accused is before deciding their fate.

One of the people putting this idea forward is Wayne van der Meide. He’s the Regional Manager of Case Management and Litigation Group from Legal Aid Ontario. He’s our guest from Ottawa this morning. Good morning.

>> Wayne: Good morning, Anne Marie.

>> Anne Marie: I guess my first question is how, how would this go forward?

>> Wayne: Well, so we started a racialized community strategy here at Legal Aid Ontario. And when we were doing our research we came across the example in Nova Scotia. So the first step we took was to invite Megan Longley from Nova Scotia to come and speak with us. And then we had a conference with a group called the Rights Advocacy Coalition for Equality or Race, where about 100 lawyers participated.

The next step is we would like to invite both the lawyers who were involved in the case in Nova Scotia as well as the clinical social workers, to come to Ontario and speak with Ontario lawyers and Ontario clinical social workers, to figure out what an ideal cultural assessment report looks like.

>> Anne Marie: And what is a cultural assessment? What factors are you looking at?

>> Wayne: Well a good cultural assessment report really has two main components. The first component is a review of the impact or the evidence of systemic racism. Systemic racism is not something that exists on the surface. When you do take a look at the statistics, of which unfortunately they’re are overwhelming and cross over all sectors of society, it’s quite apparent. But if you don’t look at them they’re not self evident. So the first section would be a review of those statistics.

The second section of a good report would essentially be to describe the history of the individual before the court, and how systemic racism may have impacted them and contributed to the reasons they’re before the court.

>> Anne Marie: Specifically, what factors would you be looking at?

>> Wayne: We’d be looking at factors like how systemic racism has impacted them. So it could be in education for example. The statistics indicate that African-Canadian children in particular are more often the subject of suspensions and expulsions, which is one of the reasons Legal Aid Ontario has provided funding for a program.

There’s certainly over representation unfortunately of African-Canadians and other racialized people among low-income Ontarians. There is racial profiling and policing in several other sectors. So the report would look at all of these things and, again, see how these may have impacted the individual coming before the court.

>> Anne Marie: Once taking into consideration a cultural assessment and taking a look at all of the factors that you represented, how then would a sentencing be changed? Or what would happen next for that client?

>> Wayne: Well you know it’s very early stages, but having reviewed the decisions in Nova Scotia I would say that what we’re hoping for, as you said earlier Anne Marie, this is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. We’re not looking to support no responsibility for criminal actions. What we’re looking for is for a court to really meaningfully try to understand, as they need to do in all sentencing, the moral blame worthiness of the individual, and whether or not the individual is able to be rehabilitated. And I think these factors that we’re discussing are relevant to the courts in sentencing.

>> Anne Marie: Well this idea may be new to a lot of Canadians. It’s not a new concept within the legal community. It has been done before in, if I’m saying this correctly, the Gladue Report if that’s correct.

>> Wayne: That’s right.

>> Anne Marie: How has the introduction of that report, that took a look at Indigenous communities, played out? What does it look like?

>> Wayne: Well it looks very similar to what I have described for cultural assessment reports. I would say this. Aboriginal people in Canada and Indigenous people, they have a unique history in Canada and they have special constitutional status, as they should. But the function of a cultural assessment report is somewhat similar, in that the idea is to try and assist the court to understand the offender and not simply the circumstances of the offence, and to understand the systemic context to why the person is before the court. So there are similarities.

I think the Gladue Reports have had a great success and certainly based on our review of what is happened in Nova Scotia, we know that the courts have taken cultural sensitivity reports very seriously.

>> Anne Marie: It is an interesting concept and we are looking forwards to following this story. Wayne van der Meide, thanks for joining us from Ottawa today.

[End of recorded material 00:05:10]