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Copyright (c) 2000 University of Windsor
Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice

ARTICLE: Beyond Caselaw-Public Legal Education in Ontario Legal Clinics


18 Windsor Y.B. Access Just. 3


by Susan McDonald*



The legal clinics of the Ontario Legal Aid Plan have a mandate "... to promote the legal welfare of a community, on a basis other than fee for service." 1 This mandate recognizes that traditional legal services, which resolve legal problems through legal means such as litigation, may not adequately address the needs of low-income communities. As such, the clinics engage in public legal education 2 activities, along with community development and law reform, in addition to traditional direct services, specifically, casework and summary advice.

This paper presents a study which examined public legal education, its objectives and its role, in the provision of legal services to disadvantaged individuals and groups within the Ontario legal clinic system. 3 The research is timely given the impending reform of the Ontario Legal Aid Plan (the Plan, OLAP). 4 The current Conservative government established an inquiry into the state of legal aid chaired by Professor John McCamus. The Report of the Ontario Legal Aid Review, A Blueprint for Publicly Funded Legal Services, (hereinafter the McCamus Report) 5 was released in September of 1997. As a result of this report, at the February 1998 meeting of Convocation, benchers voted to end the Law Society's 30-year administration of the Ontario Legal Aid Plan. They recommended to the government that an organization independent of both the Law Society and the Attorney General be established to govern legal aid.

The McCamus Report acknowledged the importance of public legal education and found that ...
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