West Scarborough Community Legal Services prioritizes community development and law reform.
“Community development is as critical to anti-poverty work today as it was 39 years ago when the first community legal clinic was created. Community development remains an important tool for clinics to use in building the capacity of low income people to be involved in the legal and political processes that affect them.”
– Legal Clinics: History and Role of Community Development (www.opicco.org)
Community Leadership Group – “Voices of Scarborough”
This group consists of community volunteers who have been working on a number of initiatives in the Scarborough region. The group’s goals are to empower the local community and be a powerful voice for themselves and others in order to reduce poverty in Scarborough.
The leadership group has been involved in many successful advocacy initiatives and law reform campaigns. These include:
- The West Scarborough Community Legal Services leadership project which trained 63 community leaders
- The Fix EI campaign, which led to changes such as the reduction of qualifying hours from the 910 threshold to 420-700. For more changes, please visit: http://bit.ly/29GFV0t
- The leaders were actively involved in the Changing the Workplace Review and provided both oral and written submissions for it. This eventually led to many changes to the ESA including increasing minimum wage to $14 an hour.
- Currently the leaders are engaging with MPPs and MPs for better EI and better ESA laws
- Trained community leaders organized the minimum wage rally held in November 2013. Over 100 participants participated in the rally. This rally was very successful, was featured in local media and Ontario’s Minimum wage indexed to inflation, rising to $11.25 in October 2013.
- Community meetings and participated in community feedback for social assistance reviews.
- Lobbied local MPPs to keep the Social Assistance Community Start-Up benefits.
- Involvement in Scarborough tenant groups and organized and mobilized Scarborough Community for rooming house community consultation meetings in 2015, lobbying the city to change the rooming house bylaw.
- Participated in forums on precarious employment and other poverty issues to raise community awareness.
- Helped to convince Mayor John Tory and City Council that they must act to address the unacceptably high rates of poverty, homelessness, affordable housing needs and inequality in our city in the recent commitment by City Council, by speaking with the Toronto Star about their experiences.
Social Assistance Coalition of Scarborough (SACS) is a community based coalition which was organized in partnership with Scarborough Community Legal Services to advocate for reforms to Ontario’s two social assistance programs. The group consists of OW and ODSP recipients who want to push for compassionate social assistance reform.
SACS’s mission is to push for improvements to OW/ODSP assistance programs so that people receiving social assistance and with disabilities can live with justice and dignity.
SACS’s goal is to promote simplified rules, increase benefit levels, change the way earning claw backs are implemented, and implement services that respectfully and effectively assist recipients in moving out of poverty. SACS also works to share knowledge of the social assistance system and program policies/directives, and provide updates on any changes. SACS strives to empower OW and ODSP recipients with knowledge about their legal rights.
If you are interested in becoming a member of SACS, please contact Oksana at (416)-285-0502 Ext. 30.
Power in Community
West Scarborough Community Legal Services and Voices of Scarborough founded Power in Community in 2018
Power in Community: Fighting for Affordable Homes is a coalition of Scarborough residents, low and moderate income tenants and housing advocates. The group advocates for an affordable housing plan so ALL tenants can live in decent, safe and legal affordable homes.
Power in Community empowers community members to speak to housing needs working with other housing advocates, Scarborough residents and the city of Toronto regarding the HousingTO plan. Power in Community has met with hundreds of people, including newcomers, multi-cultural seniors, students and resident leaders, low-income residents and advocates to vocalize their concerns to decision makers. Power in Community has also submitted recommendations to the city to build more affordable housing for low income tenants.
Power in Community has also been in close communication with colleagues at the Dwelling Room Preservation Policy Working Group, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, TAEH’s Human Rights Working Group, and support the work done by these groups.
Furthermore, Power in Community is also advocating to legalize rooming houses across Toronto. Scarborough’s rooming houses are among the only affordable options for students, seniors, newcomers and other low-income singles and couples. Keeping rooming houses illegal has not made them go away. It has simply stopped tenants from exercising their rights and ensuring their homes are meeting essential health and safety standards.
Public Legal Education
We provide public legal education for the geographical area that we serve and to frontline workers who work with our clients. If interested, please contact us.
Workshops with other agencies
We provide public legal education with outside organizations and we deliver public legal education to their clients and new immigrants. Some of the organizations include: Kennedy LINC, Ellesmere LINC, Youth Shelters, Centre for Immigrant and Community Services (CICS), and Malvern Family Resource Centre.
Toronto East Quadrant Local Immigration Partnership (LIP)
West Scarborough Community Legal Services is an active member of LIP. LIP is a community-based partnership project that involves diverse service providers, stakeholders, and newcomers in the planning and development of collaborative and innovative solutions to enhance newcomer settlement in Scarborough while promoting the efficient use of resources.