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Lawyer Services for Low-Income Families in Canada

Low-income families in Canada have access to free lawyer services thanks to provincial agencies and non-government organizations such as Legal Aid Ontario, Canadian Centre for Men and Families, and Pro-Bono Students Canada.

Canadian Centre for Men and Families

The centre runs a Legal Assistance Clinic to offer free services and advice to men in areas such as employment, human rights, criminal, and family law. Among the many programs that the centre offers are Anger Management, Fathering After Separation or Divorce, and the Survivors of False Allegations Support Program.

Legal Aid Ontario

A provincial agency, Legal Aid Ontario offers legal assistance to low-income families and individuals across different fields, including clinic, mental health, criminal, refugee and immigration, and family law. Financially-eligible residents benefit from referrals and information, representation by a private lawyer, and courthouse services such as paralegals and duty counsel. A toll-free phone line is also available to help persons who need advice in the area of family law. Free legal assistance is offered in both French and English. To apply for assistance, clients are asked to submit proof of income such as their employment insurance statements, social assistance cheque stubs, or recent pay stubs. They also need to present documents on their case.

Legal Aid Ontario offers free services to individuals who have a resolution meeting, need assistance with a guilty plea, wish to delay their court date, or need advice on the court process or their rights. The agency runs 59 general legal clinics as well, offering help with:

  • Employment issues
  • Guaranteed Income Supplement
  • Old Age Security
  • Canada Pension Plan
  • Social housing
  • Landlord and tenant disputes
  • Ontario Disability Support Program
  • Ontario Works

The clinics also offer representation to persons belonging to vulnerable groups such as people living with HIV/AIDS and seniors.

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Legal Aid Alberta

As a non-profit, publicly funded organization in Alberta, LAA offers services in the fields of adult and youth family defense, immigration, child welfare, domestic violence, and family law. Lawyers provide assistance and advice to individuals who attended Provincial Court, Queen’s Bench Family Docket Court, or mediation. Support is also offered to persons who deal with issues such as divorce, spousal support, property actions, guardianship, and parenting. In addition, the organization helps victims of family violence to obtain an emergency protection order against a violent spouse, children, parents, or other family members. Persons charged with a crime are also offered legal assistance to help explain their charges, run a bail hearing, or set a trial date.

Pro Bono Students Canada

PBSC is a nation-wide organization that offers free assistance to individuals and organizations. Established in 1996, the organization provides assistance to persons who wish to submit a human rights complaint, draft a will, change their name, etc.

Other organizations and agencies that offer support to low-income persons and families across Canada are Commission des services juridiques in Quebec, the Northwest Territories Legal Aid Commission, and the Legal Services Society in British Columbia. Non-Canadians may also qualify for assistance in case they are without a status, are on a temporary resident permit or visa, or are a visitor.

Persons who do not qualify on an income basis still have access to support in the form of referrals to different agencies, legal clinics, and duty counsel.

Politically Correct Culture

Political correctness involves the use of language and adoption of measures and policies that aim to avoid and discourage discrimination, prejudice, and intolerance for members of vulnerable minorities. Markers that distinguish members of minorities include culture, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, and nationality. While proponents argue that political correctness helps make societies more inclusive, opponents counter by pointing out that the adoption of certain policies and language can influence outcomes, including in the realm of politics. So, has politically correct culture gone amok in Canada?

How It Shapes Behavior

Imagine a white male supervisor who is concerned that he will look as a racist and sexist if he was to give a negative feedback to an Indigenous female employee. Or if a Latino lawyer didn’t get that promotion and believes that he was discriminated against because of his ethnicity. This happens all the time in culturally-diverse societies like Canada’s where people of different ethnic minorities, races, religions, and genders coexist, meet, and interact. And while the goal is to eradicate inequality and bias and achieve social inclusion and cohesion, many feel judged for what they say or believe even when it is mundane issues. Then they feel resentment and anger for the fact that their voices have been silenced. Tension between members of majority and minority groups increases which can be hard to unpack.

How PC Shapes Restrictive Societies

Political correctness is about respect for minority groups that are victims of unfair stereotyping and sexism, racism, ableism, or classism. True, many of the greatest wrongs against humanity are rooted in discrimination and prejudice, including oppression and genocide. At the same time, respect for different cultures cannot be mandated or forced onto people. This is how restrictive societies are formed where tolerance for deviance or difference is low or lacking. Tight or restrictive societies are quick to impose strict norms for what is right and wrong, thus effectively suppressing freedom of expression, thought, and belief.

What Researchers Say

Extensive research has been carried out on restrictive and permissive societies and the associated psychological outcomes. The conclusion that academics reach is that in both restrictive and permissive cultures, there is a higher risk for political instability and unrest and slow economic growth. Mortality rates from chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease are also higher, and more people commit suicide or exhibit suicidal behavior. The incidence of persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia is also higher compared to more moderate cultures. What researchers argue is that nations should strive to achieve a balance between rights and freedoms and restraint. Rights and freedoms are, in fact, absence of restraint. In academic circles, the debate on the most effective form of social organization has been going on for quite some time. Advocates of individual autonomy insist that freedom from constraint allows individuals to reach their full potential and societies to use this collective potential to effectively pursue progress. Opponents, on the other hand, point to the fact that restraint or rules and regulations are the key to ensuring that societies are stable and secure. A third group calls for moderation, arguing that both excessive coercion and unlimited freedoms are counterproductive. The first may lead to oppression and the second – to a state of lawlessness.

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