By NASFISAT ALAO
Don Valley Community Legal Services is a not-for-profit, government-funded legal clinic helping residents in the East Toronto area.
It is an amalgamation of two legal clinics – East Toronto Community Legal Services and Flemingdon Community Legal Services — that continues the work of both organizations under one umbrella.
Marjorie Hiley, executive director and lawyer at Don Valley Community Legal Services, has been a lawyer for 45 years. She is originally from Winnipeg and moved to Toronto where she came to do law school and studied at Osgoode Hall. Her main area of focus is immigration law.
“We have an intake department that takes any questions that people send to them and if it’s not something we handle, because there are quite a lot of things that we don’t handle, we try to refer people to legal aid or a private bar,” said Hiley.
The legal clinic specializes in four main areas of law which include immigration law, housing law for tenants, income maintenance which includes people who are on welfare and would like to get on disability and people that need help with CPP. The clinic also recently just began specializing in employment law.
Don Valley Community Legal Services is well staffed with lawyers and paralegals who are licenced under the Law Society of Ontario and specialize in various areas of expertise in law. There are four additional staff that aid in other areas of communication, making them a team of 24 staff members.
Hiley discussed how the intake process works for clients seeking the clinic’s assistance and how it has changed over time.
“Generally it’s by telephone. As you know, the pandemic really changed a lot of things, so prior to the pandemic we had been quite open for people to walk in during business hours then the pandemic stopped that,” said Hiley.
“The intake people figure out what your main issue is after talking to you and they make sure you are in our geographical area,” she added.
In terms of the eligibility criteria that one must meet in order to obtain services from the clinic, Hiley said: “There are financial criteria. We are not there to assist the rich people.You have to be from the working poor or somebody that is on a pension or government assistance.”
Don Valley Community Legal Services has helped out a number of people who range from newcomers to those who are uncertain about what their particular responsibilities and rights are, and tenants dealing with renovictions from landlords.
“There are all sorts of folks who are being pressured into leaving their apartments so we do try to help them if they are being given forms that tell them they have to leave…they need to know what their rights are,” said Hiley.
There are no fees required in order to be eligible and able to access the services provided by the legal clinic. “We don’t charge a cent, our services are completely free,” said Hiley.
To guarantee the protection of its clients, all the clinic’s lawyers and paralegals are bound by the rules of the Law Society of Ontario.
“We are the only folks that you can say things to and we can never say anything about it unless you give us permission,” said Hiley.
Don Valley Community Legal Services has been able to help many people with legal advice and services and the clinic has an excellent reputation, said Hiley.
For legal advice or information, call the intake line at 416-441-1764 ext. 1 or visit their website at https://www.donvalleylegal.ca
For specific information on renoviction rights, please see https://www.donvalleylegal.ca/blog/small-wins-and-missed-opportunities-with-bill-97/