Stop Legal Aid Cuts Press Conference, April 29, 2019
- Ivana Petricone, Policy Counsel,
Association of Community Legal Clinics,
- Raoul Boulakia, executive of the Refugee Lawyers Association and
- Katharina Janczaruk, Vice President of the Ontario Association of Child Protection Lawyers Toronto Chapter Vice President.
Rally to Stop Ford's Cuts to Legal Aid: lawyers and doctors on May 7, 2019
Advocating Against the Provincial Government's Cuts to LAO Funding
Legal Aid Ontario is both a lifeline for the province’s most vulnerable and marginalized people, and an overburdened, under-resourced system that can’t keep up with “extraordinary” demand, said Dana Fisher speaking on behalf of the Society of United Professionals, the union representing legal aid lawyers. She’s also a legal aid duty counsellor, who helps people navigate court systems. These people often turn to legal aid as a “last hope.”
“Premier Ford and Attorney General (Caroline) Mulroney have tried to deflect from their catastrophic legal aid cuts by claiming that they are protecting what matters to Ontarians,” said Dana Fisher, a spokesperson for the Legal Aid Ontario Lawyers’ Local in a statement to HuffPost.
“These poll results show that, in fact, legal aid matters to Ontarians. The Society of United Professionals is calling on the Premier and Attorney General to reverse these cruel cuts immediately.”
Cutting legal aid for refugee claimants is lose-lose, The Lawyers Daily, May 9, 2019
The Ontario government attempted to justify the cuts by saying that fewer people are using legal aid. However, Dana Fisher, a legal aid lawyer with the United Society of Professionals, crunched the numbers and disproved that point.
Lawyers criticize government for misleading information on Legal Aid Ontario,
After going through LAO annual and quarterly reports and the most recent auditor
general’s report, Fisher said there is no evidence to support what the premier and
attorney general are saying. She said the auditor general found there was a
23-per-cent increase in the number of certificates issued by LAO between 2013 and
“That is indisputably more clients represented and not less,” says Fisher.
Fisher said the LAO “provided service and representation” to 13,000 more people
in 2017-2018 than in 2013-2014. Fisher said Mulroney has not provided a source
for her claim that the LAO served more than 100,000 fewer clients in 2017-2018
than in 2013-2014.
“This claim is not true,” says Fisher. “Whether or not Doug Ford knows that, the
statement is inaccurate. He has misled Ontario.”
Dana Fisher says there is no evidence to support figures the premier and attorney general used to explain cuts to Legal Aid Ontario.
Ontario budget eliminates legal aid funding for refugee and immigration services, The Caribbean Camera, April 19, 2019
Legal Aid funding cut nearly 30% in Ontario budget, Yahoo News, April 12, 2019
Dana Fisher, a legal aid lawyer and a spokeswoman for the union representing 350 Legal Aid Ontario lawyers, said it’s hard to see how cutting a third of the organization’s budget can be accomplished through streamlining.
“A cut of that nature is going to be horrific at any point in time, but the nature of it starting immediately is just going to cause ripples throughout the justice system,” she said.
“You’re looking at immediate impacts to defending people’s rights to liberty, to access to justice, to people being able to fight for custody of their children and access to their children, including women who are fleeing domestic violence.”
Fisher, a legal aid lawyer said the funding cut will put lives at risk.
“From the immigration perspective, these are individuals who are facing extradition and torture and persecution and these are real lives that are going to suffer as a result of these cuts,” she said.
Ontario Makes Legal Aid Less Accessible to Marginalized Groups, TeleSur, April 13, 2019
Legal aid lawyer Dana Fisher expressed fear that the cut has the potential to threaten lives.
"You're looking at immediate impacts to defending people's rights to liberty, to access to justice, to people being able to fight for custody to their children and access to their children, including women who are fleeing domestic violence."
Fisher stressed that the lives that are being put at risk by the cuts are those of "individuals who are facing extradition and torture and prosecution."
Lawyers Condemn Doug Ford Government Cuts to Legal Aid Funding, The Globe and Mail, April 12, 2019
“It’s just straight-out catastrophic," said legal-aid lawyer Dana Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Society of United Professionals, the union representing 350 Legal Aid Ontario lawyers.
More Budget Details Emerge, Zoomer Radio, April 12, 2019
Lawyer Dana Fisher calls the the cuts ‘devastating.’ Legal Aid Ontario will get $133 million less in this fiscal year than anticipated.
Advocating for LAO Lawyers Collective Bargaining Rights
Legal Aid Ontario agrees to bargain, Canadian Labour Reporter, September 5, 2016
Legal Aid Agrees to Bargain with Lawyers Chosen Union, the Labour Reporter, August 24, 2016
"Thirty-nine months of showing our employer and the provincial government how committed we are to forming a union is finally paying off," said Dana Fisher, a Legal Aid Ontario staff lawyer.
Legal Aid Ontario lawyer, Dana Fisher, who works as a duty council at the College Park Courthouse in Toronto, said her group is facing many challenges, from working conditions to the direction the profession is taking, to professional and ethical obligations.
“We just want to have a collective voice where we can raise these concerns and be closer to equal at the table, at least, with our employer,” said Fisher.
“One of the issues I have at the office I work at is a lack of space. I don’t have my own desk. I don’t have a place where I can interview clients privately. The ability to provide confidential legal advice is very important to us and we don’t have that space… That is something we would hope to engage our employer on.”
Fisher also noted the lack of space at her office makes it difficult for her to meet on the premises with clients who have mobility issues.
Legal Aid lawyers: Ontario must end unconstitutional union prohibition, NewsWire, July 29, 2016
"About 80 per cent of Legal Aid Ontario lawyers petitioned our employer for voluntary recognition of our right to a union," lamented Dana Fisher, a Legal Aid lawyer. "But for more than three years Legal Aid lawyers have been denied our constitutional right of free association because current laws do not require our employer to respect our democratic will."
“Almost all other groups of public sector lawyers exercise their right to collective bargaining. Other groups like the assistant Crown attorneys, who are largely white and male-dominated, have that right already and that difference is not lost on us,” Legal Aid Ontario staff lawyer Dana Fisher said at the rally.
“We feel discriminated against and we want fairness.”
Fisher says collective bargaining would help her colleagues secure working conditions that would help better serve their clients.
Fisher works in a small office with 14 others. There are no desks for individual lawyers and no private space to meet with clients.
The office is not accessible for people with mobility issues, she says.
“It’s not fair to our clients who happen to be some of the most marginalized and disadvantaged often in the province,” Fisher says. “And our hope is that collective bargaining rights would put us in a better position to serve those clients.”
Legal Aid lawyers file pay equity complaint ahead of Liberal fundraiser picket, Queen's Park Briefing, July 13, 2016
Legal Aid Lawyers Locked in Legal Battle with Province Over Unionization, the Toronto Star, April 13, 2016
Duty counsel Dana Fisher, who is an applicant in the constitutional challenge, said there had been some discussion about the lawyers forming their own association, but said in the end it had decided to go with a union that had a strong ability to organize a large group of people spread out across the province.
Fisher said the lawyers liked SEP because it is accustomed to working with employees who have professional and ethical obligations such as lawyers, and said it also represents lawyers and judges in the U.S.
“Our aim has always been to improve access to services for our clients,” said Fisher, who has been based at the crowded College Park courthouse in downtown Toronto for the past six years.
One example of improvements that are desperately needed, Fisher said, is more space. She said there are currently 14 lawyers working out of cramped quarters in the duty counsel office at College Park, where no one has their own desk.
“I don’t have any private space where I can interview my clients privately. It makes it very difficult to receive instructions and provide confidential advice to clients,” she said.
Legal Aid Lawyers File Charter Challenge Against LAO, the LawTimes, June 8, 2015
“After two years of requests to our employer, LAO, and to the government for help, we have been forced to pursue our rights by filing the application to remedy this injustice,” says Dana Fisher, a spokeswoman for the staff lawyers involved in the unionization bid.
The challenge, filed in the Ontario Superior Court on Thursday, centres on the right to freedom of association under s. 2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “Rights enshrined in the Charter are for everyone, even lawyers,” says Fisher.
LAO Lawyers See Promise in RCMP Ruling, the LawTimes, January 26, 2015
Dana Fisher hopes the Supreme Court’s ruling will convince Legal Aid Ontario to reconsider its decision not to give staff lawyers voluntary recognition to join the Society of Energy Professionals.
“We think this [ruling] helps solidify our position,” says lawyer Dana Fisher, spokeswoman for the campaign around the LAO union issue.
“We’re really happy about the decision.”
Fisher says her team is feeling emboldened by the top court’s ruling and hopes it will convince LAO to reconsider its decision not to give the lawyers voluntary recognition to bargain collectively
“We’re hoping legal aid will see this decision and really kind of take the right steps and recognize our rights to have collective bargaining,” she says.
Legal Aid Ontario Lawyers Welcome Supreme Court of Canada Decision on RCMP Collective Bargaining, NewsWire, January 16, 2015
"This decision gives Legal Aid lawyers hope that we will also win our collective bargaining rights," said Dana Fisher, chair of the campaign. "We're facing many of the same issues as RCMP officers and today we feel that the Supreme Court sided with us."
"While other Legal Aid workers and public sector lawyers have collective agreements in place, only the Legal Aid staff lawyers have been denied this right," said Fisher. "Our goal is to provide the best possible representation to those who need it. All we ask is that we have that Legal Aid respects our rights and gives us the same opportunity as everyone else."