On October 29th, OJEN and Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) hosted a day-long conference for community workers as part of the Law Society of Ontario’s 5th annual Access to Justice Week.
“Law and Community in 2020: Updates and Action for Community Workers” offered community workers access to front-line lawyers and community organizers who provided updates on the changes and challenges in areas of law that affect low-income and vulnerable people. With speakers from the Action Centre for Tenants Ontario, the Workers Action Centre, the Income Security Advocacy Centre, and more, the updates addressed everything from new legislation to online court and tribunal procedures in family, housing, income security, worker safety, and immigration law. The event aimed to help community workers respond to new pressures and issues facing their clients during Covid-19.
In her opening address, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and Chair of the National Action Committee on Access to Justice, expressed her appreciation for the community workers who are advancing access to justice for the most vulnerable Ontarians. She emphasized the need to provide more front-end support to people who are trying to navigate the legal system, before legal issues spiral into other areas of their lives..
Julie Mathews, Executive Director of CLEO, and David Wiseman, Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, also presented key ideas from their discussion paper, Community Justice Help: Advancing Comminity-Based Access to Justice. The report, based on research and consultations they had undertaken between September 2018 to December 2019, proposes a new approach to supporting and equipping community workers to assist with law related problems. Community workers are encouraged to reach out and provide feedback on their proposal.
Approximately 400 community workers from throughout Ontario registered for the conference, which was presented free of charge thanks to the Law Society of Ontario. Watch the video recording of the conference here.