Humber students being ‘left out in the cold’ trying to access Legal Aid

Humber students are finding it increasingly difficult to access Legal Aid services. (Photo Jennifer Berry) Humber students are finding it increasingly difficult to access Legal Aid services. (Photo Jennifer Berry)

Laura DaSilva
News Reporter

Humber students seeking legal advice on campus should prepare to be bounced around the halls before eventually being left out in the cold to fend for themselves with Legal Aid Ontario pamphlets in hand.

Up until earlier this school year, Humber Students’ Federation funded free 15-minute consultations with a lawyer, but the service is temporarily unavailable.

Odin Von Doom, vice president of Student Affairs North, said this is based on contractual issues, not due to any lack of desire to provide legal aid.

“We’re looking at what we can do in the interim for the remaining two months of the school year, and what we can do long-term to provide better service,” he said. 

“Right now, students would be referred to community clinics around them,” said Sieu Moi Ly, services director for HSF.

Students carrying the weight of landlord-tenant issues, employment rights disputes, or criminal charges on their backs, do have options to obtain free legal advice.

One service Ly suggested is advicescene.com. Students can post anonymous questions about legal problems and have them answered by lawyers in the GTA who have joined the site.

An Et Cetera reporter tested the efficiency of the site by posting a question on a landlord issue, and another about a friend from another country seeking immigration advice in hopes of attending Humber next year.

Within a couple of hours, four different lawyers responded with helpful links to government agencies that could steer this student in the right direction.

Another resource is Student Legal Aid Services Societies (SLASS). It is funded by Legal Aid Ontario, and operates out of Ontario’s six law schools. With the supervision of full time lawyers, volunteer law students provide legal advice and represent clients.

Alan Shanoff, lawyer and professor at Humber, said the eligibility requirements to obtain legal aid in Ontario are very tough.

“They need to be revisited. It’s almost as though you need to be homeless to access it,” he said.

He said Humber students not having access to any type of legal aid is  really no different than any other person in Ontario.  

Legal Aid Ontario announced Feb. 26 a $4.2 million clinic service expansion strategy beginning this month.

Genevieve Oger, senior communications media relations officer for Legal Aid Ontario, said a more detailed breakdown of how the money will be allocated to student clinics specifically will be released in the coming weeks.

Von Doom and HSF are currently exploring ways to help meet the high demand of students seeking legal advice, and hope to have something implemented by Sept. 1.

“We are looking into hiring a lawyer, and possibly opening a legal clinic. We’re also looking at possible partnerships with Legal Aid Ontario and incorporating Humber’s paralegal students,” he said.

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