Katie Robinette

FOLA wants to help find a solution to sustainable funding for PBO

At the end of October 2018, The Federation of Ontario Law Associations (FOLA) became aware that Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) planned to close their courthouse law help centres in Toronto and Ottawa -effective December 14, 2018.

Thanks to Ontario’s lawyers who generously devote their time to provide free legal services through PBO, these services have helped over 18,000 clients move through the civil justice system more efficiently than they would without such support, thereby helping the legal system of Ontario save an estimated $5.7 million per year.

FOLA understands that rapid growth in demand of PBO’s services have made ongoing funding a challenge and, as such, for three consecutive years, PBO has had to rely on annual emergency funding to meet demand. This lack of consistent, predictable funding has, in turn, led to the current decision to close their courthouse law help centres.

Upon first hearing from PBO about the current financial crisis and their decision to close their courthouse law centres, FOLA spoke to the Attorney General’s office (including Lindsey Park, the Parliamentary Assistant to the AG, and Minister Mulroney) and the Law Society of Ontario (including Treasure Malcom Mercer). Both the MAG and the LSO have informed us they have offered to work with the PBO to source sustainable, private sector, long-term funding. FOLA has offered the same. We should all be extremely proud of PBO’s impact; however, like many charities, PBO desperately needs help with fundraising and FOLA is ready to assist, in any way possible, to help achieve sustainable long-term funding for PBO.

A 2014 survey of readers of Canadian Lawyer magazine showed that, out of 532 respondents, 81 per cent said they worked on pro bono files to give back to their communities and 67 per cent did so to improve access to justice. These are the very same lawyers that make up the membership of FOLA’s 46 Law Associations.

Access to justice is manifested in the most meaningful way when experienced counsel shepherd vulnerable unrepresented litigants through the legal process.

To learn more about PBO’s current status, please visit: https://fola.ca/access-to-justice

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