Parkdale Community Legal Services

Parkdale Community Legal Services (PCLS) plays a pivotal role in helping to build and mobilize an ever increasing community movement to eradicate poverty and oppression. PCLS was founded in 1971 by Parkdale neighbourhood residents, community organizations and Osgoode Hall Law School, establishing one of the first and now largest community legal clinics in Canada.

With provincial and Legal Aid Ontario budget cuts, PCLS has been asked to reduce its own budget by approximately $1,000,000. This represents an unprecedented loss to PCLS, which has already forced multiple layoffs and threatens the very survival of the clinic. It is uncertain whether PCLS will be able to remain in Parkdale at all. Without a community legal clinic, Parkdale residents will not be able to access the services of PCLS’s four core groups: Social Assistance, Violence and Health (“SAVAH”); Workers’ Rights; Immigration and Refugee assistance; and Housing Rights matters.

The contributions of PCLS to the community are far too numerous to include in a 500-word essay. However, some recent highlights of PCLS’s legal and community work include:

In 2018, the Housing Rights division assisted over 850 households with housing concerns, which included mostly threats of evictions. The Housing division supports the development of neighbourhood-based organizing to resist the displacement of working class and low-income renters who are increasingly being pushed out of the community through gentrification.

In November 2015, the Immigration and Refugee division went to Ottawa to participate in Kanthasamy v Canada before the Supreme Court of Canada and won! This case focused on how immigration officers should exercise humanitarian discretion. PCLS participated as an intervener based on our 40+ years of experience representing clients on humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications.

The SAVAH division opened over 400 cases last year! This division provides a range of case work services including summary advice, informal advocacy, and representation with respect to decisions concerning eligibility for the Ontario Disability Support Program, Ontario Works, and Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities. SAVAH continued to engage in women’s rights organizing and was integral in anti-racism organizing through the “I am NOT Invisible” campaign.

The Workers’ Rights division was instrumental in making the $15 and Fairness a key issue in the provincial election. In 2017-2018 the division also collected $628,049.16 in unpaid wages and wrongful dismissal damages for workers in the Parkdale community. The Workers’ Rights division helps people like Eva, who with the assistance of the Workers’ Rights division, filed an Employment Standards Act claim against her employer for unpaid wages. The Ministry of Labour decided in Eva’s favour and issued an Order to Pay against her employer for $84,817.30. We believe that this is one of the largest amounts that the Ministry of Labour has ever issued on behalf of an individual worker.

On top of all that, Lerners LLP and Parkdale are intrinsically linked: Lerners and its clients have benefited from countless students trained at PCLS and then hired by Lerners LLP over the years.

John

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