“Growing Legal Aid Ontario into the Middle Class: A Proposal for Public Legal Expenses” in M.J. Trebilcock, T. Duggan & L. Sossin, eds., Middle-Income Access to Justice (University of Toronto Press, 2011) ch. 13 (with M.J. Trebilcock and J. Wilson).
The legal aid system in Ontario is not working, particularly with respect to access to justice in civil matters. Financial eligibility requirements remain frozen at extremely low levels and have been steadily eroded by inflation, leaving increasing numbers of people ineligible for publicly paid legal assistance. The range of services covered prioritizes criminal and family law and, except for some legal aid clinics, does not extend to employment law, consumer law, and debtor/creditor law. Publicly funded legal assistance cannot meet many of the most pressing legal needs of middle income Ontarians. Moreover, private markets, as currently structured and regulated, have not bridged this gap in access. In this paper, we propose to grow Legal Aid Ontario into the middle class by grafting public legal expenses insurance on the existing program of publicly funded legal services for low income Ontarians.