The Ford government and Legal Aid Ontario have decided to dramatically reduce funding to Specialty Clinics, including the three clinics that provide services to injured workers. This decision will dramatically impair access to justice for injured workers across the province. Injured workers who qualify for legal aid cannot retain lawyers on certificates. They cannot obtain service from their local clinic, because local clinics do not handle workers' compensation cases. Their options are: the Office of the Worker Advisor which has a long waiting list, one of the three Specialty Clinics, or a lawyer or paralegal on a private basis. With the clinics on reduced budgets, many more injured workers will go unrepresented.
Clinics have also been leaders in public legal education and law reform. The current government, of course, does not support this vital work, but it is at the heart of what representatives do in the long run. And it has been a part of the legal aid system since the 1970s and approved of in the Osler and Grange reports. For injured workers as a group, the long-term losses resulting from reductions to the broader work that clinics do will likely be larger than the individual losses that they sustain. This is what the government wants.