COVID-19 has led to a lot of changes in people’s lives across the world, and Donich Law and other lawyers in Ontario are aware of the fact; the pandemic has resulted in a big upsurge in legal issues in the province.
Pro Bono Ontario (PBO), a charity providing free legal services, reported that phone lines dedicated to employment and housing saw the biggest upsurge in calls, with employment-related calls spiking by a whopping 153% from 2019 to 2020, while housing calls went up 145% in the same timeframe.
PBO Deputy Director Yonit Fuhrmann says that those particular phone lines have exploded, with the charity having been forced to deal with inquiries that simply weren’t an issue before the pandemic.
Fuhrmann spoke to CBC News, stating how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an issue that Donich Law and other lawyers in Ontario are aware of; the access to justice, noting that a lot of their clients had nowhere to turn to.
Employment and housing calls to PBO were mostly relegated to layoffs, qualifications for government benefits, and inquiries about workplace health and safety before the pandemic, which were overtaken by calls about termination as the pandemic kept people at home.
The spike calls about evictions matches up with recent events, as the Landlord Tenant Board restarted issuing eviction orders earlier in August.
Fuhrmann says that they’ve basically seen a tidal wave of evictions since the LTB resumed, and it’s pretty much overwhelming them, with a monthly average of 300-400 calls on the topic since August.
On top of the increase in employment and housing legal inquiries, PBO also reported a 102% increase in calls regarding wills and estates, and a 25% increase in calls regarding consumer issues, like cancelled trips.
Notably, PBO’s free legal services is well known in Ontario, as they save the government approximately $5mn annually by cutting down on court proceedings, boosting the efficiency of the legal system, as well as providing pro-bono legal services from the private sector.
The charity regularly receives donations from big law firms in Canada like Donich Law, on top of receiving annual funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario.