Lawyers employed by Legal Aid Ontario that have been seeking to become members of The Society for more than two years filed a constitutional challenge on June 4 in their latest bid to have their constitutional rights recognized.
“After two years of requests to our employer, LAO, and to the government for help, we have been forced to pursue our rights by filing the application to remedy this injustice,” said Dana Fisher, LAO Lawyers’ spokesperson. “Rights enshrined in the Charter are for everyone, even lawyers.”
LAO Lawyers’ campaign legal counsel, Steven Barrett of Goldblatt Partners, believes the lawyers have a strong case based on the Supreme Court ofCanada’s recent holding in the RCMP case confirming employees have the constitutional right to democratically choose their own independent bargaining representative. As Barrett said, “The continued refusal of Legal Aid Ontario to recognize The Society as the democratically independent association freely chosen by the majority of LAO lawyers, and the continued refusal of Legal Aid Ontario to enter into a process of meaningful collective bargaining with The Society, is a serious infringement of the freedom of association guarantee in section 2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
The Society had hoped that following the RCMP case Legal Aid Ontario would respect the ruling of the Supreme Court. Given LAO is funded by the Ontario government’s Ministry of the Attorney General, The Society hopes that the government will intervene to save all involved the time and cost of a protracted legal battle.
Legal Aid Ontario lawyers work in courthouses and legal aid offices across Ontario, providing legal advocacy and advice to low-income Ontarians. Legal Aid lawyers have expertise in criminal, family and immigration/refugee law.