News / Toronto

New legal clinic for Black Canadians will be in place within a year: Legal Aid Ontario

It's meant to replace the African Canadian Legal Clinic, which lost its Legal Aid funding this summer.

A new clinic to serve the legal needs of Ontario's Black community will be in place within a year following the defunding of the African Canadian Legal Clinic, says Legal Aid Ontario.

In a video posted by Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) on YouTube, staff lawyer Moya Teklu says the new clinic will be funded "at the same level as the ACLC was funded, with additional investments as necessary."

A Legal Aid spokesperson referred questions to lawyer Julian Falconer, who is representing LAO in the matter.

The public agency is holding an open meeting Wednesday evening to "educate LAO on community needs," Falconer said, adding that "the focus of the meeting is not about the mechanics or the details of the new clinic."

A committee of the Legal Aid board of directors decided in August to defund the African Canadian Legal Clinic, effective Sept. 30, due to serious concerns about financial mismanagement and accountability.

As Metro first reported, a 2013 independent audit from PwC found a number of personal purchases on the clinic's company credit cards, including a diamond ring, alcohol, lingerie and a Lavalife account. The full audit, as well as the final decision to suspend funding, is available on Legal Aid's website.

The executive director has denied any wrongdoing and said all personal purchases on company credit cards were paid back.

The clinic is an independently run non-profit and receives about 35 per cent of its funding through Legal Aid.

An independent panel of Black Canadians, who did not have any say in the defunding decision, have been working to help LAO create the new clinic.

In the meantime, people can access legal services though the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, members of the private bar and Legal Aid's Test Case Program.

Panel member Zanana Akande said the scope of the new clinic may be widened to include areas such as education and to help people who are already incarcerated.

"There will be a clinic, but how and where and what it's going to look like will be influenced a great deal by the input of the community," she said.

"There are more of us here now than there were when the clinic was first initiated, and the needs are wider."

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