All posts by cowleyc

Looking to the past to understand systemic anti‑Black racism

“We have to understand the history of Black people in this country to fully understand the systemic barriers preventing them from fully participating in Canadian society,” says lawyer and human and civil rights expert, Anthony Morgan. “Without that, some people may be inclined to think of Black Canadians as dysfunctional or unable to ‘get it together’.”

Anti‑Black racism’s deep roots

Anthony, who has dedicated much of his career on anti‑racist human rights litigation, says the belief that Blacks in Canada may be dysfunctional is deeply rooted in Black Canadian history and the experience of enslavement and colonization. He says that Canada’s enduring narrative of racial utopianism is a myth and that Canadians like to believe that none of the racial tension that exists in the United States exists here. These beliefs, which have existed since the time of colonization, have helped to normalize anti‑Black racism within mainstream society.

“It gets to a point where folks here feel like there’s no reason to complain and that Black people in Canada are all treated fairly,” says Anthony. “And when you’re confronted with data about elevated rates of violence within Black communities, poverty and unemployment, poor educational outcomes or increased mental health or child welfare apprehensions, it’s easy to blame Black people and communities.”

Systemic racism’s impact on the justice system

This type of data was exactly what Kim Roach, the lead for LAO’s Racialized Communities Strategy, looked at when it came to making a case for why LAO needed such a strategy.

“For many members of racialized communities—the Black community in particular—systemic racism impacts all aspects of life from parenting, education, employment and health,” Kim explains. “This in turn makes them more likely to come into contact with the justice system.”

“That’s why it’s important to develop a responsible, contextual, fact‑based understanding of the past to understand the present experience of Black people in Canada within its context of historical and ongoing anti‑Black racism” Anthony finishes. “Stereotypes, prejudices, and racism towards people of African descent didn’t just disappear when slavery ended and that type of thinking continues to infect and affect our social institutions, labour markets, media, and our policies and practices.

Kim agrees, adding that Black children, for example, are more likely to be suspended or expelled from schools for issues that white students would not—and that this increases the likelihood that Black children will be more vulnerable to becoming involved with the criminal justice system. It’s one of the reasons LAO funded TAIBU Health Centre in partnership with Rexdale Health Centre to help Black youth stay in school.

For those who are already involved in the justice system, though, LAO has funded cultural assessment reports in a precedent‑setting case.

“These reports allow the defence to present a full picture of the accused,” Kim says. “They present the accused person’s history and how systemic racism may have factored into his or her actions.”

Raising awareness

Cultural assessment reports are a start.

Anthony thinks that when people start to talk about Black history and are provided with training about lived experience, it creates a greater awareness and understanding of how to adjust our own personal practices and how to rethink policy and procedures.

“When we look at the socio‑systemic stats of Black marginalization, we have to see as the influence of slavery’s afterlife. (Slavery) may be gone but its legacy lives on through policing, child welfare services, and education systems.”

Kim uses the issues with the bail system to illustrate Anthony’s point.

“At LAO, our research has shown that when we look at who gets bail and who doesn’t, there’s a split along racial lines. Black people are less likely to get bail than white people accused with similar history and charges,” she says. “And if a Black person is granted bail, the conditions are often more numerous and onerous than their white counterparts. This is another issue LAO is trying to address through a bail pilot which ensures the ladder principle is followed.”

Selected case law that looks at anti‑Black racism

For lawyers with Black clients, Anthony feels education is key.

“There are too many folks who interact with Black clients or families of Black clients who are lacking in knowledge of major cases that have impacted Black communities,” Anthony says.

He points to case law where the courts have offered “very robust, sophisticated defensible definitions of what anti‑Black racism looks like.”

“For any attorney to be successful, look at the case law where judges have articulated what anti‑Black racism is and how it operates in Canadian society,” Morgan advises. “It will go a long way towards providing appropriate context for practitioners.”

More information

Racialized communities strategy | Stratégie à l’intention des communautés racialisées

Legal Aid Ontario releases its racialized communities strategy consultation summary

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is releasing a summary of its racialized communities strategy consultations, which helped LAO learn more about the issues faced by racialized people when it comes to getting the legal services they need.

The consultations, which ran from the winter of 2017 into the spring of 2018, were held with racialized groups, lawyers, community legal clinics and other community agencies.

“Approximately 400 people shared their experiences, frustrations and feedback with us,” says Moya Teklu, the (acting) lead for the racialized communities strategy. “We will use what we heard to enhance our services and programs and ultimately improve justice outcomes for racialized communities.”

The summary provides an overview of the feedback LAO will use when it comes to developing a blueprint for how it can enhance its support for racialized clients.

LAO plans to release this blueprint by the end of the year to outline short, medium and long-term plans to address the issues identified throughout the consultation.

More information

News item (graphic shows illustration of a newspaper)

LAO starts to collect race‑based data

Starting April 1, 2018, when someone applies for legal aid, we’ll be asking them about their race because this helps Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) to improve how we deliver services and to create the types of programs that certain racialized groups need.

“Collecting data on race helps us get a better understanding of who is and isn’t accessing our services and what kind of help they receive,” explains Moya Teklu, LAO’s racialized communities strategy lead. “Are certain groups not getting our services? Why? Are people from different groups receiving the same treatment and support?”

Teklu says that the collection of race-based data has, for a long time, been encouraged by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Race-based data collection standards were set out by the provincial government in the Anti‑Racism Act.

LAO’s race-based data collection is supported by community organizations that have consulted with our racialized communities strategy.

Currently, LAO collects information about First Nation, Métis and Inuit people and has an Aboriginal Justice Strategy that specifically addresses the legal needs of those clients.

LAO expects the collection and analysis of race-based data will similarly lead to expanded and enhanced services for racialized communities.

“This is an important opportunity to gather data that could show us—and the justice system, at large—how we can all better address the needs of racialized people,” says Teklu.

More information

Questions

Racialized communities strategy | Stratégie à l’intention des communautés racialisées

Work with low-income, racialized communities?

Host a Legal Aid Ontario consultation!

Since 2016, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has been meeting with legal aid applicants and clients, lawyers, community legal clinics and other community agencies to talk about issues faced by racialized communities when trying to get the legal services they need.

If your organization would like to cohost a meeting with LAO to help develop our racialized communities strategy, we’d love to hear from you!

If you regularly host an event for your clients or members that you would like LAO to attend as part of your agenda, contact us at rcs@lao.on.ca or select a time and date on our online scheduler.  If you don’t find a date that works, simply email us and tell us what works for you! We’re more than happy to come to you and arrange for an interpreter and bring our promotional materials.

To schedule a consultation, please select your city and choose a date and time that works best for you.

Consultations will be scheduled on a first-come, first serve basis.

Online scheduler

Consultation questions

If you cannot host a meeting but are still interested in providing feedback

If you cannot host a meeting but are still interested in providing feedback, please send a written submission to rcs@lao.on.ca by March 30, 2018.

Share your views on street checks

“Carding” is the police practice of stopping, questioning, and recording the information of individuals even when no particular crime or offence is being investigated.

Carding has been shown to target members of racialized communities, especially young Black men. On January 1, 2017, the Ontario government introduced Ontario Regulation 58/16 to attempt to make the practice fairer.

Starting on February 1 until April 23, 2018, Justice Michael H. Tulloch will be holding meetings with members of the public to hear about whether carding is an ongoing practice, how it impacts individuals and communities, and what their views are on police interactions and public safety.

Justice Tulloch and his team want to get a better sense of whether police officers, chiefs of police and police services boards are complying with the new regulation.

Justice Tulloch will be hosting 12 public consultations across the province, in addition to several consultations with various Indigenous and private stakeholders.

For more information about the review, consultation and how to participate, please visit https://streetchecksreview.ca

RCS blog entry: image of two green hands on green background

Legal Aid Ontario hosts community meeting about legal services for Ontario’s Black communities

Legal Aid Ontario would like to invite you to a community meeting that it is holding to get input on legal services to the Black community.

We want to hear your views in order to begin the important work of setting up a new, independent, Black-focused and Black-led clinic. We also want to tell you about the services that LAO is currently providing to increase access to justice for members of Ontario’s Black community, including through partnerships with the Human Rights Legal support Centre, members of the private bar, and the Test Case Program.

If you are interested in participating in this community meeting, the details are as follows:

  • Date: Wednesday September 27, 2017
  • Time: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Location: Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St, Toronto, ON

Legal Aid Ontario will provide TTC tokens for those who would like to attend and would require assistance with transportation costs.

An American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter will be interpreting the presentation for the audience.

David Field, President and CEO
Legal Aid Ontario

More information

Moya Teklu
Staff Lawyer
Email: teklum@lao.on.ca
Phone: 416-523-9764

Domestic violence strategy | Stratégie en matière de violence familiale

LAO releases domestic violence strategy blueprint

As part of its domestic violence strategy, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has developed a three-year action plan. The blueprint comes after months of consultations with survivors, partners in the Violence against Women community and other legal and community service providers. During these consultations, LAO received a lot of feedback on how the organization can enhance its support for domestic violence clients.

“LAO recognizes that survivors are the experts in their own experience of domestic violence—and they have an important role to play in the development of solutions,” says Michelle Squires, who leads the domestic violence strategy. “Our action plan focuses on making it easier for people to get help from us—particularly on a local level, where we can work with community agencies to develop a support system that works together to help those who need it.”

Squires says that the action plan also looks at finding ways to ensure that those who help survivors are specifically trained on how they can best help.

To date, LAO has already made it easier for domestic abuse survivors to get help from a lawyer by expanding financial eligibility guidelines and prioritizing domestic violence clients for quicker service.

A plan for change

Over the next three years, LAO’s aim is to expand and improve services for domestic violence clients.

The plan will:

  • make it easier for those subjected to domestic violence to access services
  • improve the way LAO staff, community legal clinic staff, and lawyers provide help by training them to understand the complicated legal needs of domestic violence clients
  • look at ways for LAO to work with community groups to provide the supports that don’t currently exist

By continuing to work in strong partnership with partners in the justice and social service sectors—and directly with those who are subjected to domestic violence—LAO’s strategy will help address the many connected legal issues that clients currently face.

More information

Racialized communities strategy | Stratégie à l’intention des communautés racialisées

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 rcs@lao.on.ca.

Resources

For more information

News item (graphic shows illustration of a newspaper)

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.

Contact

Avvy Go
416-971-9674
goa@lao.on.ca

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: http://www.calacs.ca/fr/activites-29