Criminal Law

Have you been charged with a crime? Have you been denied legal aid? We may be able to help. Visit our criminal law page to read more able the kinds of cases we can take on.

Family Law

Do you need advice about custody and access? Questions about child support? DLS may be able to assist. To find out more about these services, visit our family law page.

Refugee and Immigration Law

Have you made a refugee claim? Do you need help filing a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment or Humanitarian & Compassionate Grounds application? We may be able to help.

Housing Law

Are you a tenant in rental housing? Is your landlord trying to evict you? Does your apartment need repair? We may be able to help.

University Affairs

Are you a student at the University of Toronto? Have you been charged with an academic offence? Do you need advice about an academic appeal? Read more about our services for students to see if we can assist.

Employment Law

Lost your job?  Treated unfairly at work?  Problems with your employer?  We may be able to assist you.

Legal Education Workshops

We provide plain language workshops on a variety of legal topics. To request a workshop or learn more about our PLE program, contact us.


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News

Bill C-75 and Student Representation in Criminal Courts

Bill C-75, an omnibus bill making numerous amendments to the Criminal Code, has passed third reading in the House and will likely become law in the new year. The Bill’s changes include raising the maximum penalty for summary conviction offences to 2 years less a day. The Bill, as it stands, will significantly restrict the work of DLS’s Criminal Law division and prevent us from providing free legal representation to our clients charged with criminal offences. 

Currently, s. 802.1 of the Criminal Code allows law students to represent accused if the maximum sentence they face is 6 months incarceration or less. This means DLS can help with most summary offences. If Bill C-75 raises the maximum sentence for summary convictions without changing s. 802.1, students would be barred from doing any substantive work on criminal files, including running trials for our clients. Students would be restricted to appearing in court only to schedule further appearances (set dates). 

This change will be a serious setback to our already disadvantaged clients. For a segment of the population, DLS is the only representation they can find. Legal Aid will only give certificates to people at risk of imprisonment and community legal clinics do not represent clients for criminal matters. This means that any one charged with a criminal offence who cannot afford a lawyer, but is not at risk of jail time, is left to navigate the criminal justice system on his or her own. Just because our clients are not facing a risk of jail, it does not mean they are not facing serious consequences. Fines, restrictive probation conditions, and criminal records are only some of the penalties our clients face. 

Lack of representation has serious consequences. Empirical research by Prof. Paré at the University of Western Ontario shows that clinic representation makes accused less likely to plead guilty.1 Unfamiliar with the justice system, unrepresented accused are more likely to plead guilty to “get it over with”. This will create a risk of wrongful convictions.  

study by Legal Aid also found that self-represented accused are less likely to raise Charter arguments. Without representation, many are unable to recognise when their rights have been infringed. Even if they know the police did something they shouldn’t have, it is confusing to try and turn that into a legal argument. Less representation means less protection for people’s rights. 

The change will also deprive students of the ability to get hands on experience in the criminal courts. The Criminal Law Division is DLS’s largest division. It provides students with a chance to learn practical skills that can’t be taught in the classroom. This makes for better lawyers with stronger connections to the community. 

This change even undercuts the Government’s own stated goals of the Bill. Bill C-75 is meant to clear delay from the justice system; but leaving people without representation will only make the problem worse. In their report on court delays, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs found that unrepresented accused contribute to unnecessary delays in the justice system. The change proposed in Bill C-75 only serve to undermine Parliament’s attempt to address the backlog in our courts. 

In its current form, Bill C-75 will drastically limit the work of the Criminal Law Division at DLS and Student Legal Clinics across Canada. This Bill will leave thousands without representation, creating a barrier to access to justice, increasing backlogs in the courts and may result in wrongful convictions. In addition, it will deprive students of practical clinical education which puts them face to face with segments of the population who are most in need of legal assistance. 

There is one way these problems can be avoided: The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario can make an order exempting students from the restriction in s. 802.1. There may be a concern about students representing clients who are facing more serious offences should an Order in Council be made; however, it is possible for the order to specify a sub list of offences for which students would be allowed to provide representation. 

The best hope of DLS and our clients is to have the Lieutenant Governor make this order. It’s already been done in Alberta and it can be done here in Ontario, too. If you want to help, please write to your local MPP urging him or her to support this order should Bill C-75 be passed into law as it currently stands. 

1 Paul-Phillipe Paré, Dale E Ives, and Jason Voss (2008). The Effects of Differential Representation on Outcomes in Summary conviction Criminal Cases (Unpublished) page 12.

Submission to the City of Toronto on Zoning for Secondary Suites

Whether or not our clients have a housing law issue, we very often have a housing problem: we can’t find any! At least, not housing that is safe, affordable, and anywhere close to the communities, families, jobs, and schools to which we are connected.

This summer, City of Toronto staff proposed changes that would remove some of the barriers to building more “secondary suites”, such as basement apartments, in places like Scarborough where our clients are often stuck renting in illegal and dangerous rooming houses. We call on the City to do this (and a whole lot more!) to increase the limited supply of these rental housing options. You can read our submission here.

End of Term is Approaching! Check out these resources in dealing with exam and assignment stress.

Starting to feel the heat of end of term papers and looming exams?  You are not alone.  Check out these links for campus specific resources available to students.

St. George Campus Resources and Workshops

  • Meet with a Learning Strategist – “All students can meet with a Learning Strategist for individualized support.”[1]
  • Exam Prep Series – “short, focused discussions with a Learning Strategist about the exam skills that matter to you and your discipline”[2]
  • Preparing for Exams & Managing Exam Anxiety – “In this interactive workshop, we will discuss anxiety and stress management techniques and will introduce students to resources that are available around campus”[3]
  • Staying Resilient & Managing Stress Through End of Term – “This workshop will return to the topic of resiliency and stress, exploring the ways that strategies for building resiliency can be used by students at times of acute academic pressure”[4]
  • Study Hubs – “quiet study time for students to work on whatever they have to do”[5]
  • Graduate Writing Groups – “Are you a graduate student determined to write and defend your dissertation before your funding package expires? Do you find it difficult to maintain a consistent writing schedule? Would you like to commit to writing regularly? Join a community of peers who share your experience and can help keep you accountable.”[6]

Health and Wellness Services and Workshops

  • Health & Wellness Centre – “The Health & Wellness Centre provides the same services as your family physician”[7]
  • Better Breath – “Feeling too busy to manage stress effectively as a university student? Come learn about the benefits of restorative breath, try new techniques for relaxation such as muscle tension reduction and learn new tips for taking time to pause and recharge.”[8]
  • Better Coping Skills – “If you’re having trouble coping with the demands of university life – or even regular everyday situations – this series of workshops can help you build the skills you need to thrive.”[9]
  • Better Sleep – “Feeling too busy or stressed as a university student to sleep properly? Come learn about what you can do to improve your sleep and feel more rested and refreshed.”[10]
  • Mindful Eating: Food and Mood – “a mindful exploration of healthy eating and how our relationship with food can affect our mood.”[11]
  • Mindful Moments: Meditation & Yoga “weekly opportunities Mondays through Fridays to practise secular mindful meditation techniques that will increase your relaxation and focus”[12]

UTM Resources and Workshops

UTSC Resources and Workshops

  • Upgrade Your Study Strategies! –“ Feel like your study skills need a little “upgrading”? Hoping to improve your grades, but not sure where to start?”[20]
  • Time Management – “Participants will learn how to plan for busy periods in the academic year and adapt their schedules accordingly” [21]
  • Study Smarter not Harder Part I – “Attend this session to get into academic shape! Topics covered in this session include: time management, reading, note taking”[22]
  • Study Smarter not Harder Part II – “Attend this session to get into academic shape! Topics covered in this session include test preparation and test format, memory and Concentration, reducing procrastination & increasing motivation”[23]
  • Going From B to an A – “Do you want to boost your grades from B’s to A’s, but you’re not sure how?”[24]

General External Services:

 

 

 

We are grateful for the funding provided by Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Faculty of Law and students at the University of Toronto.