For some low-income people in Ontario, it could be a lifeline.
A new toll-free hotline operated by the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (CSALC) went live Sunday, providing free legal consultations in five different languages for non-English speakers.
“We know how much need there is out there,” said Avvy Go, director of the CSALC and lawyer specializing in what’s informally called “poverty law.”
The clinic has been operating on Dundas Street West in downtown Toronto for nearly 30 years. New funding from Legal Aid Ontario allowed it to open its services to low-income Chinese and Southeast Asian people in every corner of the province.
“Contrary to public opinion, there is a lot of poverty within the Chinese, Vietnamese as well as in the Laotian and Cambodian community,” Go explained.
“The challenges that they face in part arise from their low income status, but also because they are a racialized group.”
Though the clinic has unofficially served clients from outside the GTA for years, the hotline will provide a consistent outlet for those in smaller cities and rural areas.
“They may not be able to access linguistically or culturally appropriate legal services in their community,” said Go.
Permanent funding means more help
The grant of $100,000 helped cover costs of the hotline and two new staff members — one lawyer who speaks Mandarian and Cantonese and one who speaks Vietnamese — as well as new community outreach.
According to Go, most of the clinic’s work is related in some way to immigration or employment.
About a third of the cases involve immigration law, whether its someone trying to bring family members to Canada, gain legal status as a resident of Ontario or fight a removal order.
Many of the clinic’s clients work low-wage jobs and face…