Community Advocacy & Legal Centre
15 Year History - 1980-1995
Legal Clinics in
specializing in poverty law came into existence in Ontario in 1971.
Law students in Toronto's Parkdale area began offering legal
services to the poor that year in areas of law not covered by the
Ontario Legal Aid Plan when it was created in 1966. The clinic
system has grown over the years from that first clinic to the
present 72 clinics in 1995. In addition to several specialty
clinics serving the elderly, the disabled, youth, injured workers
and others, clinics exist in many (but not all) Ontario communities.
A legal clinic in
Hastings and Prince Edward Legal Services was
funded as a community legal clinic in October, 1980. The
clinic had its roots in the local community and was seen as the
successor to the Quinte Information and Assistance Centre which had
closed that same year due to a lack of funding. The Centre had
functioned as a Landlord and Tenant Bureau and had offered advocacy
in unemployment insurance, social assistance and consumer matters.
Bill Hockley, an original volunteer and employee with the centre
became one of the legal clinic's first employees.
Official Opening of Hastings and
Prince Edward Legal Services. From left to right: Jack Bradford,
board member; Hugh O'Neil, MPP Quinte; James Taylor, MPP Prince
Edward-Lennox; Lyle Langabeer, city alderman and Grant Bowers,
director. The office is located at 194 Front Street.
When the clinic was
finally incorporated as a non-profit organization in April 1981, its
operate a full service law office;
establish legal education programs;
publish legal education literature;
organize people or groups for test case or law reform purposes
As a non-profit
community legal clinic, representing low income people, the
involvement of the Board of Directors has been crucial to the
functioning of the clinic. A representative Board can ensure
community issues are addressed.
Founding board members
were: Peter Coultas, Gerry O'Connor, Olive Amos, Lynn
Chalmers, Terry Barratt, Rick Bough, Jack Bradford, Cathy Brandsma,
Rod Follwell, Bert Gerling, Herb Koplowitz, Paul Russell and George
In the early days, under the direction of Grant
Bowers, Executive Director, clinic staff offered information, advice
and representation in many areas of the law including more minor
criminal matters, provincial offences, adoptions and name changes.
In 1981, at the request of our funders – Clinic Funding Committee of
the Ontario Legal Aid Plan – the clinic’s Board of Directors
reviewed the mandate, and developed new policies that favoured
poverty law advocacy. Legal services, community development
and law reform activity became more focused on tenants’ rights,
welfare and disability pensions, unemployment, workers’ compensation
and consumer issues.
From a small, dark
storefront office at 194 Front Street in Belleville, lawyer Grant
Bowers; community legal workers Bill Hockley and Linda Law; and
Evelyn Kerr, legal secretary, operated on a shoestring budget
offering advocacy to people living on a low income.
Into Rural Areas
Funding for satellite offices in Picton and Madoc
was granted in 1985. By then, Karen McCullough had joined the
clinic as Executive Director when Grant Bowers left in the clinic in
1984 for new challenges. Michele Leering was hired to staff
and promote the two satellite offices in Prince Edward County and
Centre Hastings. She replaced Karen McCullough as Executive
Director when Karen took a new position with Downsview Community
Legal Services. A Bancroft satellite office was funded in
A Brief Survey of
Special Highlights Over the Years
This brief review of
some of our special activities and accomplishments is by no means
comprehensive. We have simply tried to give a sense of the
variety and complexity of some of the clinic’s work.
Understated in what follows is the importance of the legal casework
we do daily on behalf of clinic clients. In addition to the
many special projects we do, clinic staff represent 300-350 new
clinic clients annually, and give referrals, information and legal
advice to another 3,000-4,000 people per year.
Our daily work
satisfies critical needs for our clients, i.e. maintaining a roof
over their heads and food on their tables. Many of our clients
are in difficult financial or personal circumstances.
We simply could not
accomplish what we do with what we have without the enthusiasm and
commitment of the many Board and staff members who shared of their
gifts and talents so fully over the past 15 years.