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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Demystifying the University Mandated Leave of Absence Policy

 Thank you to 1L DLS volunteers Arjun Gandhi and Sara Bolourchian for putting together these questions to assist students in understanding the University Mandated Leave of Absence Policy.  The information contained here is taken from the University Mandated Leave of Absence Policy.  


1. What is the University Mandated Leave of Absence Policy 

The University Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (“MLOA”) is a relatively new policy passed by the University of Toronto Governing Council on June 27, 2018.  The policy creates a process through which the University can place a student on an involuntary leave of absence from the University. The policy is not intended to be disciplinary and is meant as a last resort in infrequent circumstances where the student is experiencing a mental health crisis or a similar issue and has declined to participate in any of the accommodative services made available to them, or where accommodations have not been successful.  

2. Who is covered by the MLOA? 

 The MLOA applies to all part-time and full-time students at the University of Toronto including students with a valid student card who are in-between sessions.  

 3. Under what circumstances does the University consider the MLOA? 

There are two scenarios where a students behaviour may trigger consideration for MLOA. 

(1) The student poses a physical or psychological harm to themselves or to others.  

(2)The student is unable to engage in the activities required to pursue an education at the University even after accommodations have been offered/pursued.  (To be clear, this does not mean that being academically unsuccesful by itself triggers the policy) 

4. How will I know if I am being considered for a MLOA? 

The Student Case Manager (SCM) assigned to your case will notify you in writing that the Vice-Provost is considering whether you fall under the policy. You will be given an opportunity to discuss this with the SCM.   

5. Who is the Student Case Manager (SCM) 

If the Vice-Provost is considering a MLOA, you will be assigned a SCM. The SCM acts as a liaison between you and the Vice-Provost, as well as with other staff engaged in exploring accommodations. The SCM also supports staff providing advice on terms and conditions of any leave. 

6. I have asked for an accommodation which the university has refused and now they are considering me for a MLOA. Is that allowed? 

The Vice Provost is not to place a student on a MLOA unless reasonable efforts have been made to enable the student to continue in their studies with accommodations and either those efforts have not been successful or the student has not participated or cooperated with the offered accommodations. 

The SCM should explore accommodations as an alternative to the MLOA in consultation with you, the Vice-Provost, and the Student Support Team.  

7. What is the Student Support Team? 

The Student Support Team (SST) is a team of multi-disciplinary experts established by the Vice-Provost. The team may include student service representatives, registrar personnel, medical professionals, academic administrators, equity officers, campus safety personnel, and others. The team is supposed to assist in giving a nuanced and comprehensive analysis of the student’s needs.  

8. Once I am notified that I am being considered for an MLAO what options do I have? 

Just because you are being considered for a MLOA does not mean that you will be placed on one.  If there are accommodations that would assist you that are not yet in place, these should be considered before any MLOA is imposed.  As a result, you should make the SCM and SST aware of any potential accommodations that you may require.  

Also, at any time during the process, you will be given the option of taking a voluntary leave of absence. The terms and conditions of the voluntary leave of absence will be recommended by the Vice-Provost after consultation with the SST and SCM. You may submit comments in response to the recommended terms and conditions. 

9. How long does the leave last? 

It depends. The duration of the leave is different in each case and will be determined by the Vice-Provost in consultation with the SCM, SST, and the student.   

10. How does the leave of absence affect my finances (tuition, scholarships)? 

It depends. Arrangements may be made for the reimbursement of tuition and for changes to the status of awards and scholarships.  This is a matter that must be considered as part of the MLOA. Speak to your SCM and SST. 

11. Will the MLOA affect me academically? 

The MLOA will not be noted on your transcript. Where appropriate, academic credit will be awarded for any academic work or research already completed. This is a matter that must be considered as part of the MLOA. Speak to your SCM and SST. 

12. Can I still be on campus after the leave has come into effect? 

It depends. Terms and conditions of the MLOA may include a limitation to your access to university premises. You may also be required to temporarily cease your co-curricular involvements on campus while the leave is in effect.  This is a matter that must be considered as part of the MLOA. Speak to your SCM and SST.  

13. I live in student housing, what happens if I am placed on a MLOA? 

It depends. Consideration must be given to a student’s housing situation where it could be affected by an MLOA. Where appropriate, terms and conditions of the MLOA may include relocating you to transitional housing. Speak to your SCM and SST. 

14. Will my personal information be kept confidential? 

Information regarding the process will remain strictly confidential. Any disclosure of your information should only occur if there are serious safety concerns, in which case, only the necessary officials should be notified.   

15. What do I do if I don’t like the terms and conditions of the MLOA proposed by the Vice-Provost? 

Terms and conditions are determined on a case by case basis and are supposed to address the specific behaviour and needs of the student. Prior to imposing the MLOA, the Vice Provost must provide the student with the circumstances giving rise to the decision to place a student on a MLOA, the process followed to arrive at the decision, and terms and conditions of the leave.  The student will have an opportunity to provide other relevant information prior to any final decision. 

In addition, you can speak to your SCM and SST to express your concerns before the MLOA is imposed 

If you are still not satisfied with the terms and conditions when they are imposed, you can request a review by the Provost. 

16. I’ve been placed on MLOA, and I do not agree with it. What do I do? 

Within 10 business days of the Vice-Provost’s decision to place you on a MLOA, you may submit a written request to the Provost to review the decision.  

The Provost will respond in writing within 10 business days to this request. 

17. What does a written request to review the Vice Provost Decision look like? 

The letter should set out the reasons the MLOA should not be imposed and/or requested changes to the terms and conditions.  Any supporting information should be included (ie. professor letter, medical notes).  The tone of the letter should be respectful and it should be edited to be free of grammatical errors or typos. 

18. I am over the 10 day time limit to apply for a review, what do I do? 

The Provost may extend the time limit for you to request a review in certain circumstances. In your letter, include any extenuating circumstances that prevented you from requesting a review earlier.  

19. The Provost agreed with the Vice Provost to impose a MLOA.  What do I do now? 

You can appeal the Provost’s decision to the University Tribunal. You must submit a written notice of appeal within 20 days of the Provost’s decision.  

20.  Will there be a hearing? Is the University Tribunal’s decision final? 

Yes, the Senior Chair or Associate Chair will hear the appeal and their decision is final.  

21. When my leave of absence is over, can I automatically return to the University? 

 When your voluntary or mandated leave of absence terminates, you must apply in writing to the Vice-Provost in order to return to your studies 

In addition, under the policy,  the Vice-Provost has the discretion to request an external medical assessment before allowing a student’s return. The Vice-Provost can extend the leave of absence if they feel the terms and conditions of the MLOA have not sufficiently been met.  

22. What does that letter requesting to return to studies at the University look like? 

It depends on the initial reasons for the MLOA so every situation will be different.  The letter could have updated medical information and/or an opinion from your treating health professional.  

23. The University has requested medical documents and/or that I undergo expert assessments prior to my return. What do I do? 

If the University requests medical documents or medical assessments, they will be responsible for reimbursing the costs. Any medical information given to the University will remain confidential.  Any medical information requested should be related to the reasons underlying the leave. If you still feel uncomfortable with complying with the request, you can seek independent legal advice.  

24. The Vice Provost has refused my return to University and extended my MLOA.  What do I do? 

You may have that decision reviewed and appealed using the same process as described in paragraphs 1620. 

25. I was placed on a MLOA without any prior notification or process. Is that allowed? 

In cases where a student’s behaviour is violent or poses a serious threat, an urgent MLOA can be immediately invoked for up to five business days without following the standard procedure. Where this is the case, you still have the opportunity to respond.  You can also request a review and appeal of this decision according to paragraphs 16-20. 

26.Can I seek legal advice? 

At any point during the process, you may seek independent legal advice. 

27. Can I get help from Downtown Legal Services (DLS)? 

If you are appealing the Provost’s decision to the University Tribunal, you can contact Downtown Legal Services (DLS) for legal advice and we may be able to represent you to the University Tribunal 

28.Do I have to pay for DLS services? 

DLS’s services will be free of charge provided that you have not opted-out of these levied services.  

29.How do I contact DLS to ask for assistance? 

Call our intake line at 416-978-6447.  Our trained students will confirm whether you are eligible for our services and you will be referred for an in person intake meeting to determine whether and/or how we can assist you. 



Equal Pay for Equal Work

By Lauren Wildgoose (Student in Employment Law Division)

We don’t want employers to pay employees less because of something as arbitrary as their sex or their race. So why would we let them do it because they work part time? As it turns out, the recent changes to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) through Bill 47 might actually let employers do both.[1]

Previous changes to the ESA prevented employers from paying part-time workers (or casual, seasonal, or temporary employees) less than their full-time counterparts for doing “substantially the same work”. However, Bill 47, passed in November 2018, revoked this modest protection.

The concentration of vulnerable populations in part-time work means that in practice, the removal of this protection will unfairly target women, racialized minorities, and recent immigrants.

Just look at the numbers:

  • In 2015, two thirds of part-time employees were women. [2]
  • In 2008, recent immigrants were 16% of the part-time workforce but only 10% of the total workforce.[3]
  • In 2014, white men were 27% more likely to be employed full-time (and permanently) than racialized men.[4]
  • In 2014, white women were 18% more likely to be employed full time than racialized women.[5]

Because of this distribution of women, racialized minorities and recent immigrants in the part-time workforce, the revocation of “equal pay for equal work,” based on employment status, arguably constitutes adverse effects discrimination against these groups. Adverse effects discrimination happens where the government enacts a law that seems neutral and applies to everyone, but disproportionately imposes a burden on certain groups defined by gender, place of origin, or other protected grounds.[6]

At its root, the revocation of the equal pay for equal work provisions allows employers to pay employees less based on a characteristic that has no connection to the employee’s merit, and no other rational justification.

Some employers might object, arguing that the revocation of the equal pay for equal work provision has nothing to do with race or gender; lawmakers were simply trying to preserve employers’ flexibility to pay people differently according to the needs of their business.

However, adverse effects discrimination need not be deliberate; the law just needs to have a disproportionate impact on a protected group. While the intention of the revocation may not be to discriminate against women, racialized minorities and recent immigrants, the effect of the law is to impose on them a very real burden that the whiter, more male-dominated, full-time workforce, does not have to face.

Furthermore, the ESA already contained exceptions to “equal pay for equal work” for reasons of seniority, merit, or any other factor apart from sex and employment status [emphasis added]. This means that if an employer had a valid reason for paying a part-time employee less than a full-timer, like the fact that they have been there longer or have additional responsibilities, they were already entitled to do so.

The revocation of equal pay for equal work through Bill 47 does more than just discriminate against people on the basis of employment status. It singles out some of our society’s more vulnerable and condones putting a lower price on the work they do.

[1] Michael Mitchell and John Murray (2017) Changing Workplaces Review: Agenda for Workplace Rights,
Final Report at 178, online: p. 177; Parkdale Community Legal Services and Workers’ Action Centre, “Making Ontario Open for Business Act: Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs Review of Bill 47” (November 2018) at 12, online:  

[2] Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 282-0008 – Labour Force Survey Estimates, by North American Industry Classification System, Sex and Age Group (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2016) as cited in Michael Mitchell and John Murray, (May 2017) at 178.

[3] Andrea M. Noack and Leah F. Vosko, Precarious Jobs in Ontario: Mapping Dimensions of Labour Market Insecurity by Workers’ Social Location and Context (Toronto: Law Commission of Ontario, 2011) Online: vulnerable-workers-call-for-papers-noack-vosko.pdf as cited in Michael Mitchell and John Murray (2017) at 178.

[4] Walter Lewchuk, Michelynn Laflèche et al., The Precarity Penalty: The Impact of employment Precarity on individuals, households and communities – Executive Summary (May 2015) at 7.

[5] Ibid at 7.

[6] Ontario Human Rights Commission v. Simpsons‑Sears Ltd. qtd in Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1997] 3 SCR 624 at 63, 151 DLR (4th) 577.

[7] Supra note 4 at 6.

[8] Ibid at 3.

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.

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.