All posts by cowleyc

News item (graphic shows illustration of a newspaper)

Metro: Toronto’s arts-focused high schools are overwhelmingly white, study shows

Students in Toronto’s publicly-funded arts high schools are overwhelmingly white and come from high-income families despite living in one of the most diverse school districts in North America. Researchers found 67 per cent of those students identified as white compared to only 29 per cent of the elementary school population.

Source: Metro (article available in English only)


Infographic: The Translation Project

Click on the image for a PDF version of the infographic

What the numbers tell us

  • 1 in 5 racialized families live in poverty in Canada, compared to 1 in 20 non-racialized families
  • 1.1 MILLION racialized persons living in poverty in Canada in 2006 — 52% lived in Ontario
  • In two of Canada’s largest cities, more than half of all persons living in poverty are from racialized groups:
    • 62% Toronto
    • 58% Vancouver
  • Racialized communities in Canada face high levels of poverty:
    • 9% Poverty rate for non-racialized persons
    • 22% Poverty rate for racialized persons
  • Almost three-quarters of racialized persons living in poverty in Canada have a mother tongue other than English or French

What we’ve heard from various communities

  • There needs to more information available about how rights and how Legal Aid Ontario can help.
  • Information needs to be available in languages that clients understand.
  • More information can empower clients to get the help that they need.

What we’ve started to do

We looked at the most requested languages among our clients:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Dari
  • Farsi
  • Hungarian
  • Russian
  • Somali
  • Spanish
  • Tamil
  • Turkish

We looked at our most frequently downloaded brochures and fact sheets:

  • Legal Aid Ontario can help
  • Finding the right legal aid lawyer
  • What to do before your criminal court first appearance?
  • Custody and access issues for those at risk of deportation*

*This brochure was translated into the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish Somali, Tagalog, and Tamil.

LAO’s Racialized Communities Strategy

Legal Aid Ontario is developing a Racialized Communities Strategy. In the first phase, we’ve been talking to people in different communities to find out what types of legal issues are impacting them and whether there are gaps in our services.

Our Translation Project is one of a number of initiatives that we are undertaking as part of the Racialized Communities Strategy.


For more information

Domestic Violence Strategy

Infographic: Getting help from a family court support worker

Click on the image for a PDF version of the infographic

If you’re a woman who’s experiencing domestic violence and in the process of going through the family court system, you can get free help from a family court support worker.

You don’t need to provide any documents to prove abuse in order to use these services. All services are confidential and available in English, French and other languages if you ask for it.

The program recognizes the unique needs of:

  • Francophone and First Nation, Métis and Inuit women
  • women with disabilities
  • immigrant women
  • lesbian and transgendered women
  • women who are more comfortable communication in a language other than English or French

What does a family court support worker do?

  • provides information about the family court process
  • helps you prepare for proceedings
  • helps you document the abuse you have experienced
  • refers you to other community services and supports, such as lawyers or Legal Aid Ontario
  • helps you make a safety plan, such as getting to and from the court safely
  • if appropriate, accompanies you to court proceedings

Family court support workers don’t offer legal advice and their help isn’t intended to replace advice from a lawyer.

The growing demand for family court support workers

In 2015, according to data published by the Ministry of the Attorney General:

  2011/12 2012/13
Number of clients served 2,025 7,869
Number of times information about family court was provided 2,285 9,260
Number of safety plans developed 1,285 5,056
Number of times assistance with legal aid applications was provided 583 2,620
Number of referrals provided to clients for other services 3,717 13,205

How do I get help from a family court support worker?

These workers are available across the province. You can find a service provider in your community by visiting the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Family Court Support Worker Program page:

If you have questions or need help finding your service provider, please call the Victim Support Line toll-free at 1-888-579-2888.


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Infographic: The rise in Islamophobia

Click on the image for a PDF version of the infographic


Noun. An unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore, fear or dislike of all or most Muslims.

Islamophobia manifests itself in different ways:

  • hate crimes
  • increased police scrutiny and security profiling
  • discrimination in employment

Islamophobia and race

A significant number of the world’s Muslims are from racialized communities. Those who “appear” Muslim—people from South Asian, Middle Eastern or Somali backgrounds, for example, or due to their clothing or physical appearance—are vulnerable to being attacked or targeted.

“When you’re Arab and Muslim, the categories can get conflated. When I’ve spoken to media, there’s been a distinct interest in looking at Islam is ‘those brown people from over there.’”

Maytha Alhassen, doctoral candidate in the department of American studies and ethnicity at University of Southern California

“Islamophobia manifests itself through the surface characteristics of race. We wrongly think we can judge another’s character by the colour of their skin, the style of their clothing, or the Middle Eastern sound of their name. This is not a vigilance worth protecting; this is a racism, a societal evil that needs to be opposed.”

Stephen Goeman, Interfaith Activist

Islam and Islamophobia in Canada

February 23, 2017: The Ontario legislature unanimously passed an anti-Islamophobia motion to condemn the growing tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiments and all forms of Islamophobia.

“The day after the shooting in Quebec a father called my community office asking in the morning is it safe for him to send his son to school. That’s not the society we live in. That’s not the society we’re building. Parents should not be fearful for a nanosecond whether they should send their children to school because of their faith. It’s real.”

Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General
  • 3.2% of the population in Canada is Muslim (7.7% in the Greater Toronto Area)

  • Islam is the second largest religion in Canada, after Christianity

  • 44% increase in reported anti-Muslim hate crimes since 2012

There has been an increase in:

  • Verbal attacks
  • Physical attacks
  • Attacks on property and institutions
  • Hate propaganda and demonstrations
  • Threats

LAO’s Racialized Communities Strategy

Legal Aid Ontario is developing a Racialized Communities Strategy. In the first phase, we’ve been talking to people working in different communities to find out (among other things) what types of legal issues are impacting them and whether there are gaps in our services.

As we move forward with the development of the Racialized Communities Strategy, we will look at ways we can offer services that combat racism in the justice system.

LAO condemns Islamophobia and racism in all its forms. We will continue to combat systemic racism in the justice system.

What we are currently working on:

  • researching the link between race and Islamophobia
  • supporting test cases that challenge the Safe Third Country Agreement
  • make our materials and services more accessible in languages often spoken by Muslim people


News item (graphic shows illustration of a newspaper)

Toronto Star: Ontario government unveils 3-year plan to battle racism

The provincial government has announced a new three-year strategic plan to fight systemic racism, pledging to introduce new anti-racism legislation, commit $47 million to a black youth action plan, and start collecting race-based data in various institutions.

Source: The Toronto Star (article available in English only)

More information

Graphic of group of people talking

Confronting Race and Racism in the Criminal Justice System

The Rights Advocacy Coalition for Equality (R.A.C.E.) and Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) are hosting a free educational event: Confronting Race and Racism in the Criminal Justice System.

The event is happening on Monday, March 27, 2017 at 6 p.m. Space is limited and available in English only.

To register and find out more information, please visit:

Infographic: The case for race-based statistics?

Infographic: The case for race-based statistics

Click on the image for a PDF version of the infographic

Why collect race-based statistics?

The Ontario Human Rights Commission finds data collecting can help:

  • verify, monitor, measure and address gaps, trends, progress and perceptions
  • proactively identify opportunities for improvement and growth
  • improve the quality of decision-making, service delivery and programming

Examples of why collecting data is a good idea:

  • Prevent or address systemic barriers to access and opportunity
  • Plan special programs
  • Improve equitable service delivery and programs

What the numbers are telling us

LAO currently doesn’t collect data about the race of applicants or clients, but we do rely on secondary data about race. Here’s how stats shed a light on our services in the various areas of law that we cover.

About the child welfare system:

  • Ontario’s children’s aid societies have agreed to collect race data to help figure out the needs of Black and Aboriginal families
  • 42% of youth in care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto are Black, but only 8.2% of the city’s under 18 population is Block.
  • 23% of children in care province-wide are Aboriginal, but only 2.5% of Ontario’s under 19 population is Aboriginal.

About school disciplinary hearings:

  • Not all Ontario school boards collect data on race and suspension rates
  • Toronto District School Board data revealed that Black students are suspended disproportionately compared to white students
  • LAO will provide funding to two organizations to help Black students who are suspended and facing expulsion hearings

About the bail system:

  • Racialized and Aboriginal people face more over-policing practices and racial profiling
  • Racialized and Aboriginal people are more likely to find themselves in pre-trial detention
  • 13% of the remand detention population is Aboriginal but only 2% of Ontario’s population is Aboriginal

How collecting race-based data could help LAO

LAO currently doesn’t collect statistics on applicants’ or clients’ race. Understanding data, however, could help us understand how we can help improve the outcomes of racialized communities when they come into contact with the justice system.

Additionally, we can:

  • document and study systemic discrimination in the justice system
  • remove barriers people face when accessing our services
  • tailor programs to address client needs

Next steps:

In early engagement sessions, LAO has repeatedly heard about the need to collect data about clients’ race.

LAO has begun the process of figuring how to gather and analyze this data. Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.


News item (graphic shows illustration of a newspaper)

Huffington Post: We must address the racial disparities in bail decisions

As Legal Aid of Ontario’s report on bail notes, racialized people who are subjected to racial profiling and other over-policing practices, “are more likely to find themselves in pre-trial detention” than their counterparts. If more interactions with the police means that police practices can result in racialized people being arrested at greater rates, they will also be over-represented at the bail stage, at the trial stage and at sentencing. Thus, by the time an individual is arrested and the decision is made that he/she is to be brought before a judge or a justice of peace, several decisions have been made that have, in turn, exacerbated the racial composition of the criminal justice system.

Source: Huffington Post (available in English only)

More information