LAO services to assist with anti‑Black racism

Published: June 25, 2020

This email was sent to members of the private bar on June 24, 2020.

Dear members of the private bar,

Legal Aid Ontario as an organization recognizes that though we want things to be different, not everyone is treated equally under the law.

Anti-Black racism and police violence is not just an American problem. Unfortunately, it is a reality for many in Canada including for members of the Black, Indigenous and racialized communities. This is a list of the Black and Indigenous people killed by Canadian police. So many of those listed were experiencing some kind of mental health issue when they died.

At this time, I want to take this opportunity to remind you of existing services LAO already provides that may assist you in addressing anti‑Black and anti‑Indigenous racism, including:

  • During the COVID‑19 pandemic, LAO will automatically provide certificates to people who have been detained on criminal charges
  • LAO offers certificate coverage for people dealing with child protection agencies. During COVID‑19, this will not be income tested.
  • LAO may provide legal services to people who have been criminally charged, where their matter raises issues of racial profiling, even where they would not otherwise be legally eligible
  • Funding of cultural assessment reports (similar to Gladue reports but for Racialized communities);
  • Test case funding including for legal representation for families at inquests, and budgets to support broader systemic challenges

In March, LAO’s Racialized Communities Strategy published its final report. If you have not read its findings, I would commend it to you. Moving forward, we have developed the Racialized Communities Action Plan—which lists 17 areas that LAO has committed to work on over the next ten years to fight institutionalized racism in the justice sector. Our Aboriginal Justice Strategy is currently working on its final report.

LAO as an organization is dedicated to the principles of fairness, equity and social justice. We believe that Black lives matter. And we will continue—through our strategies, services, and initiatives—to make sure that we give full meaning to those words.

If you have questions about any of these services please contact the Policy department at LAO through the Racialized Communities Strategy mailbox.

I appreciate hearing from you as well as we continue to work together.

Yours sincerely,

David Field
Legal Aid Ontario