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What’s New

New report highlights critical role of community organizations in helping people access justice
July 13, 2020
Posted in:CLEO News

Toronto, ON – A new report calls for greater recognition and support for community organizations as pivotal to advancing access to justice for Ontarians. Based on research and consultations, the report highlights the difference between access to justice and access to the formal legal system, and explains how community organizations play a critical role in bridging the justice gap by providing community justice help.

The report notes that the legal profession and legal service regulators have often discouraged and even prohibited help for law-related problems by service providers other than licensed legal professionals, and calls on the profession to acknowledge and support the vital role played by community-based organizations in helping people access justice.

Community organizations work on the frontlines helping people, every day, with their law-related problems. "Ontarians have established a path to community justice helpers such as settlement workers, advocates against gender-based violence, social workers in healthcare settings, and other frontline specialists who can provide help," says CLEO Executive Director Julie Mathews, who co-authored the report with Professor David Wiseman, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. "These workers are responsive to the lived experiences of their clients, and have established a high level of trust from the communities they serve. They’re responding to the myriad of problems that people face during difficult periods in their lives."

The report, Community Justice Help: Advancing Community-Based Access to Justice, explores how community organizations in Ontario can be better equipped and supported to help people with life-affecting problems that have a legal element. "Community organizations make meaningful contributions to helping people to access justice on a daily basis, and we are pleased to support work that contributes to the discussion about how they can best do that," says Tanya Lee, Chief Executive Officer of The Law Foundation of Ontario, the funder behind this research.

The report notes that community justice helpers have the training and experience to provide effective assistance and that, working in not-for-profit settings, they are governed by policies and procedures that protect the dignity, privacy, and welfare of clients. Workers at not-for-profits are not directly paid by clients.

"We have had an ethical code in our office for the last 30 years, and we know the system and we know the agents of the system," says Francisco Rico-Martinez co-director of the FCJ Refugee Centre, a settlement agency based in Toronto. "One of the mottos that we have in our office is people don’t leave with their hands empty. I don’t say we take the whole case, but we help."

Many Ontarians do not seek help from a lawyer or paralegal for their legal problems because it’s not financially feasible or because they don’t qualify for legal aid or help from a legal clinic. It can also be challenging to find a lawyer or paralegal who is sensitive to a client’s particular social and cultural contexts, or who speaks their language. And lawyers and paralegals typically have not been trained to – and are not expected to – address the full panoply of clients’ problems that may include elements relating to the law, as well as health, financial security, housing, and family support needs.

"We are not talking about 'second-best help'," Professor Wiseman, a co-author of the report, notes. "Often, people working at community organizations are in the best position to respond to clients’ multi-dimensional needs, especially in communities experiencing social disadvantage. Also, there are many types of law-related problems that do not require the specialist expertise of lawyers or paralegals and that can be effectively provided by skilled community justice helpers. To paraphrase the report: a lawyer’s help where necessary; but not necessarily a lawyer’s help."

The report notes the ongoing vital role played by Ontario’s licensed legal professionals, and emphasizes the importance of a well-resourced legal aid system and a thriving community legal clinic system that serve the most disadvantaged across the province, often in collaboration with community workers. It calls on justice system regulators, law-related associations, and justice policy makers to re-affirm their support for this role, and encourages lawyers and paralegals to look for further ways to partner with community-based groups.

Mathews concurs, saying, "Increasing access to justice requires solutions that are broader than improving access to licensed legal services providers. That has been our approach to date, and we still see huge gaps in people’s ability to achieve anything that approaches meaningful access to justice. We have to do things differently – and not-for-profit organizations embedded in their communities are already key sources of good quality help for people who need it."


About CLEO
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario) is a non-profit community legal clinic. For over 45 years, CLEO has produced clear, reliable legal information for those who experience barriers to accessing the justice system. Visit for more information. CLEO’s Steps to Justice website provides free legal information for people in Ontario.

About the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Common Law Section
Located in the heart of downtown Ottawa on the ancestral territory of the Algonquin Nation, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Common Law Section’s faculty is composed of a wide range of experts, many of whom are renowned as leaders in their respective fields. Through their scholarship, many of our professors have contributed to the transformation of Canada’s legal systems as well as the ways in which law is practiced, taught and conceived.

About The Law Foundation of Ontario
Established by statute in 1974, The Law Foundation of Ontario is the sole foundation in Ontario with the mandate of improving access to justice. Through granting and collaboration, the Foundation invests in knowledge and services that help people understand the law and use it to improve their lives. Learn more at Julie Mathews' participation in the project was enabled by a Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship awarded by The Law Foundation of Ontario.

This research is supported by:

Law Foundation of Ontario

For more information, please contact: Jane Withey, Director Clinic Operations, at or at 416-527-3140.
On the Radar: Who needs a Power of Attorney?
June 24, 2020
Posted in:On the Radar

The current pandemic is a stark reminder that life circumstances can change rapidly. By creating Powers of Attorney, people can choose someone they trust to make financial and personal care decisions if or when they need it.

This month's On the Radar looks at a new tool that helps people make Powers of Attorney for Personal Care and Property.

CLEO Statement on Systemic Racism
June 16, 2020
Posted in:CLEO News

CLEO stands in solidarity with Black communities, Indigenous peoples, and people of colour in fighting systemic racism. We at CLEO are developing an action plan, which we will share, to advance progress in our own work and to urge and contribute to much-needed systemic change in the justice system at large. We believe that meaningful access to justice will not be achieved until systemic racism becomes history.

Interactive Guided Pathways for making and revoking powers of attorney
April 23, 2020
Posted in:CLEO News

Toronto, ON – People in Ontario have new, interactive tools for making and cancelling (revoking) powers of attorney (POAs). The tools — called Guided Pathways — are available as interest in POAs surges in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19: Make a Power of Attorney using CLEO’s Guided Pathways
April 16, 2020
Posted in:New Resources

Visit Steps to Justice to find out how to prepare a power of attorney or a will, including how to have the documents witnessed virtually.

Use CLEO's Guided Pathways to help you draft a Power of Attorney for Personal Care or a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property.

Visit COVID-19: Updates on the law and legal services on Steps to Justice and Justice pas-à-pas for information on many areas of the law including employment, income assistance, housing, and family law.

Job opportunity - Legal Content Developer
March 31, 2020
Posted in:CLEO News

CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario) is seeking a Legal Content Developer with legal practice experience, strong skills in clear writing and online communication, and experience in working with communities that are socially disadvantaged. This is a full‐time position.

COVID-19: Updates on the law and legal services from CLEO
March 19, 2020
Posted in:New Resources

CLEO is working to give practical answers to the important questions that people are asking about the law relating to the COVID-19 situation. We are also sharing updates about changes to government programs and court services.

Please visit COVID-19: Updates on the law and legal services on Steps to Justice and check back regularly for updates.

CLEO 2018-19 Annual Report
February 10, 2020
Posted in:CLEO News

CLEO 2018-19 Annual Report is now available, featuring highlights of the year’s activities.

On the Radar: Small Claims Court limit raised to $35,000
February 3, 2020
Posted in:On the Radar

As of January 1, 2020, Ontario's Small Claims Court has the power to deal with claims of up to $35,000. Before that date, the maximum was $25,000.

In this month's On the Radar, we highlight information about suing in Small Claims Court.

New information on Wills
January 28, 2020
Posted in:New Resources

Steps to Justice now has information about wills, including:

    why it’s important to have one
  • what you should think about when making one
  • what happens if you don’t have one
  • the role of an estate trustee