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Community legal clinics

Region: Ontario Answer # 851

If you cannot afford a lawyer, and if you are not eligible for legal aid, or if you do not want to use legal aid, you can go to a community legal clinic or to Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) for legal assistance. There are approximately 59 general community legal clinics and seven student legal aid service societies across Ontario.

What kind of legal assistance does a community legal clinic offer?

Community legal clinics employ lawyers, legal workers, paralegals and administrative staff. They provide assistance with various legal issues involving basic needs, such as housing, health care and education. A community legal clinic can provide legal advice, representation and information in a number of areas, primarily:

  • Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program issues,
  • social housing matters,
  • Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement issues,
  • wrongful dismissal and other employment issues, and
  • disputes between tenants and landlords

While community legal clinics may provide help in other areas, they generally do not cover most criminal or family matters.

Although clinics do not normally charge a fee for their services, you may be asked to pay for some, or all of the expenses of your case. For instance, court filing fees and medical expenses may not be covered. In most circumstances, however, you will have to demonstrate financial need to be eligible to receive legal assistance from a community legal clinic. When you go to a legal clinic you should bring your financial information and all the documents that relate to your legal matter. The clinic will conduct a financial assessment of your situation to determine your eligibility.

Legal Clinic eligibility thresholds

To qualify for legal services from a community legal clinic, your annual gross family income as of April 1, 2020 must be:

  • Below $22,720 for a family of 1
  • Below $27,516 for a family of 2
  • Below $32,178 for a family of 3
  • Below $34,809 for a family of 4
  • Below $38,418 for a family of 5
  • Below $41,199 for a family of 6 or more

Specialty clinics

There are approximately 13 specialty clinics across Ontario. Some deal with specific areas of law, such as workers’ compensation or workplace health and safety issues. Other specialty clinics provide services for specific groups in the community, such as seniors, individuals living with HIV/AIDS, disabled persons or Aboriginal people.

What is CLEO?

CLEO is a charitable organization funded by Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Foundation Ontario, and the Department of Justice Canada. CLEO is a member of the Public Legal Education Association of Canada (PLEAC), a Canada-wide organization formed to promote access to justice through public legal education and information in communities across Canada. CLEO’s work focuses on providing information to people who face barriers to accessing the justice system, including income, disability, literacy, and language. As a community legal clinic and part of Ontario’s legal aid system, CLEO works in partnership with other legal clinics and community organizations across the province.

CLEO’s Connecting Communities Project is a legal information training partnership between legal and non-legal organizations to improve legal information and services for those who don’t speak English or French, or who live in rural and remote communities. For more information, visit CLEO.

For a listing of community legal clinics in Ontario, visit Legal Aid Ontario.



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