Low-income residents seeking legal advice now have an option closer to home, with the mobile legal clinic provided free of charge by Waterloo Region Community Legal Services (WRCLS).
Funded by Legal Aid Ontario, the clinic provides 30-minute appointments with a lawyer during which residents can seek advice on a number of issues, including Ontario Works and ODSP appeals, employment law, EI, debt and workplace harassment. The WRCLS also advises renters on tenancy issues-which is the most common service that they provide, said Evangelynn Chee, a community development worker with WRCLS.
“A lot of the kind of attention usually goes on landlords. So it is unfortunate that tenants, especially nowadays, are facing what they’re facing.
“With tenants, if they’re facing eviction, whether it’s an illegal eviction or whether it is rent arrears or any issues that they face with their landlord, we can provide legal advice based on your issue, all the way up to representation to the landlord and tenant board,” Chee said.
The clinic runs every second Wednesday of each month at Woolwich Community Services from 9 a.m. until noon. Although the Kitchener-based organization has been running for about 30 years, this new partnership started in May.
“We were just noticing that a lot of more rural areas either didn’t know about us or had trouble accessing our services in Kitchener,” Chee said.
“We understand that it can be difficult to travel from Woolwich to Kitchener. We’re just trying to make it more accessible, kind of breaking down barriers and accessing justice because our whole mission is to help people access justice. This is one of the ways that we can do it,” she added.
“[We partnered] with Waterloo Region Community Legal Services to alleviate the barrier of travel for community members to access their legal services. Some people do not have options for transportation into Waterloo and if we can at least take away that stress to get legal advice, we are hoping that people use the opportunity,” said WCS community support coordinator Tina Reed.
Beyond the transportation issues, many residents do not realize that legal aid is even an option for them, Chee explained.
“So Wellesley, Wilmot, Woolwich, even Cambridge sometimes are not aware that we exist and that there is legal assistance available if you are low-income. All of our services are free – we just want to make sure that people are aware that, ‘Hey, we’re here.’
If you’re facing eviction, for example, if you’re facing an unlawful termination or you’re facing any type of legal issue that we are here to help and just kind of spread the word that we are here,” she said.
Chee said the response has been great so far, with several residents already having more than one appointment. The clinic is available to anyone who needs it, even if they have yet to access WCS previously.
“The services are available to anybody. They can feel free to reach out to them or reach out to us directly and set up an appointment to meet with us on a monthly basis,” Chee said.