Access to Legal Aid is a Social Determinant of Health: Midwives Call on Funding to be Reinstated

July 22, 2019

The provincial government cut an unprecedented 30% from the Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) budget this year, with an additional 35% cut planned for 2020.
Midwives are deeply concerned and have joined with other health care providers to write a letter calling on the federal and provincial governments to find a new funding agreement to provide legal aid services to immigrants and refugees in Ontario.
The provincial government claims that funding legal services for immigrants and refugees is the responsibility of the federal government. In fact, legal aid for refugee and immigration services has been, and remains, a responsibility shared between the two levels of government. These cuts to provincially funded immigration and refugee services have left LAO struggling to provide immigration and refugee services to thousands of low income immigrants and refugees in Ontario.
LAO has responded to these cuts by drastically curtailing the services that will be provided to low income immigrants and refugees in Ontario. The effect is that vulnerable people are left without representation as they struggle to navigate a complex legal system, often without speaking either of Canada’s official languages.
Midwives recognize access to justice through legal representation as a critical social determinant of health. LAO funded services provide crucial assistance to low income Ontarians when their rights to healthcare and social services are threatened. LAO funded lawyers, legal clinics and community legal workers prevent evictions, appeal denials of social benefits, represent clients in claims for refugee protection, human rights violations, employment law, family law, and in the criminal justice system, just to name a few. Midwives are acutely aware that the reduction in these important services will leave Ontarians vulnerable and increase the potential for negative health outcomes, including for pregnant people in midwifery care. We strongly believe that human rights including equity in healthcare and social services are for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.
The AOM has pledged our support to adequate funding for legal aid through a letter to the provincial and federal governments.  You can read the letter here.
We ask all midwives and the families we care for to also consider taking action. If you would like to have your voice heard, click here