Legal Aid Cuts Hit Important Program at Women in Crisis

Provincial cuts seem to be affecting the Guelph community again, this time in the form of a vital legal aid program for victims of domestic violence. Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis and the Legal Clinic for Guelph and Wellington County posted the news on Friday that a weekly family law clinic has been cancelled effective immediately.

“The Clinic received notice today, that effective Monday the criminal/family law information centre that was held on Monday afternoons at the Clinic has been cancelled,” the Legal Clinic posted on Facebook. “Family law services will still be available Fridays from 9-12 at 74 Woolwich Street, and Criminal law services are available Thursday from 2-4 at the courthouse at 36 Wyndham Street South.”

Women in Crisis executive director Sly Castaldi also posted to social media about the sudden and immediate cancellation of the Family Court Support Program, which offered, according to the Legal Clinic website, “services to women who have experienced abuse and are currently involved or about to enter the Family Court process,” two times a week.

“This morning we were notified by fax that effective immediately @legalaidontario will no longer be providing family law services @gwwic,” Castaldi wrote. “This was a vital service for women dealing with domestic violence.”

Services offered by this program included advice about legal procedures, assistance with documentation, safety planning, referrals, and interpreters if needed.

In a Twitter post, the Legal Clinic said that this will be a powerful blow to the people that need their services. “The demand for family law services in our community is high,” it said. “The Monday Clinic saw people lining up 30 minutes in advance and waiting to speak to duty counsel. It was always busy and the people appreciated the face to face assistance and advice.”

Last month, the Guelph Mercury Tribune reported that the clinic was already facing $10,000 in budget cuts stemming from the 2019-2020 provincial budgets, and the cuts were retroactive to April 1. According to the clinic, last year alone their four staff members handled 2,000 intakes.

The Guelph Politicast will be going deep into the implications of budget cuts to legal aid on next week’s episode. Ottawa-based criminal lawyer and podcaster Michael Spratt, and Anthea Miliken, the executive director of the Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County will be the guests.

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