Legal Aid doing its bit

Published: July 5, 2016

The following letter to the editor appeared in slightly shorter form in the Toronto Star on June 29.

Click here to download image.

Re: CAS study reveals stark racial disparities for blacks, aboriginals

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) applauds the Toronto Star for calling attention to the overrepresentation of children who are Aboriginal or Black in the child protection system.

While the numbers reported in the media are stark, we need to do far more than collect and bemoan child welfare statistics. As part of LAO’s Aboriginal Justice Strategy, we have noted the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children taken into care by child protection agencies and supported the community by providing funding for a child protection alternative dispute resolution program in the north.

And now, as part of a recently launched project aimed at enhancing services for racialized communities we are hearing that similar issues are being experienced in particular by Black families.

When LAO decided to increase its coverage for certain legal issues last June, for instance, we made sure to add more coverage for families involved in child protection cases. This means parents and caregivers can hire a lawyer to give them advice when they are being investigated by child protection agencies, and where appropriate, help them negotiate agreements rather than fight out their family’s problems in family court. Likewise, caregivers in children’s families such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings are now eligible for legal aid. They can hire a lawyer to help them keep their children in the care of their extended family or home community.

We applaud the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies for implementing programs to collect information throughout Ontario about the race of families under investigation and the treatment of Aboriginal and racialized children. We hope that other participants in the justice and child welfare system also take action and provide practical support to all of Ontario’s children and their families.

– David Field, President and CEO, Legal Aid Ontario