Legal Aid Ontario funds new injured worker lawyer

AUNDECK OMNI KANING—Winds of change have come to Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) with the announcement of an additional $3.3 million in funding to expand client services to address the unmet needs of low income Ontarians, vulnerable and specific client groups.

In addition to the new funds, which will flow to 54 legal clinics across the province to support collaborations between and among clinics and community organizations, LAO will be funding a new injured workers lawyer.

“The Manitoulin Legal Clinic (MLC) is one of the successful clinics that will be receiving increased funding in support of their Injured Worker Initiative,” announced MLC Executive Director Mike Shain during the clinic’s annual general meeting.

Mr. Shain is one of 10 Workplace Safety and Insurance Law certified specialists in Ontario.

It was Mr. Shain’s initiative to request funding for an additional lawyer position dedicated to providing representation to injured workers across Northern Ontario idea when Legal Aid Ontario invited submissions for innovative projects.

“Few clinics provide assistance in this area,” he noted, “and as a result the Manitoulin Clinic has for the past number of years been assisting injured workers from across the Island and also from beyond the Manitoulin catchment area with their WSIB cases. It became apparent very quickly that there was a huge need for legal representation on behalf of injured workers, and this need for the most part was not being met.”

The injured worker initiative began as a collaborative project involving the other Northern clinics who will now be able to refer their WSIB clients to the new caseworker, explained Mr. Shain, who went on to add that the position will have a collaborative governance structure which has yet to be put in place and, when it is, a determination will be made as to where the new position will be based. “It will depend upon the degree of experience the successful applicant has with WSIB law,” said Mr. Shain, “as well as where we determine the area of greatest need is. Hopefully these decisions will be made quickly so we can move forward with hiring the new lawyer.”

It may be possible that the new lawyer will need to be placed at the Manitoulin Clinic for training purposes, as Mr Shain is the most appropriate individual in the North to provide such training, given his background and experience in this area of law. But as Mr. Shain further explained, wherever the new lawyer is based, the job will entail a good deal of travel as this individual will be providing legal assistance across the North.

“So this is good news for injured workers across the North” said Mr. Shain. “The new funding is permanent funding and it will improve the delivery of legal services to the injured worker community. The Initiative represents a new and collaborative approach to improving access to justice for injured workers.”

The MLC board elections saw no change to its makeup following the annual elections to the board. Returning to the board are Linda Erskine (re-elected chair), Leslie Fields (vice-chair), Ned Martin (treasurer) and board members Mary Alice Lewis, Rosemary Burnett, Heather Jacko, Colin Pick (chair of the Manitoulin North Shore Injured Workers Group) and retired lawyer Steve Marshall.

The MLC practices “poverty law,” providing legal services, including summary advice and representation before government tribunals such as the Social Benefits Tribunal, the Landlord and Tenant Board and the WSIB Appeals Tribunal to low income and impoverished Ontarians and is located beside the band office in Aundeck Omni Kaning.