Responsive grants double in number and support of northern Ontario and Indigenous communities

The Foundation granted more than $5M to fund 41 Responsive grants in 2023, more than double the investment of 2022.
January 18, 2024

Responsive grants double in number and support of northern Ontario and Indigenous communities

A young Indigenous woman standing with an older Indigenous woman, both smiling

The Law Foundation of Ontario granted more than $5M to fund 41 Responsive grants in 2023, more than double the investment of 2022. The Responsive program funds project grants that support innovative, community-based ideas to improve access to justice. In 2023, available grants ranged from $10K to $250K.

Facilitated by an increased budget and proactive support for applicants, the Foundation was able to further its strategic priorities of increasing access to justice for northern Ontario and Indigenous communities. Of the new grants approved, 14 or approximately 34% directly focus on support for Indigenous and/or northern Ontario communities, representing an investment of more than $2M.

Indigenous and northern communities face unique barriers

Colonization and ongoing systemic racism and discrimination continue to have dire effects on the safety, livelihood, and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples across the county. This includes the significant overrepresentation of Indigenous people within Canada’s criminal justice system, as both victims and offenders. While representing approximately 4% of Canada’s population, Indigenous people account for 27-28% of admissions to provincial/territorial and federal correctional services[1].

Indigenous and non-Indigenous people living in northern Ontario also face specific access to justice barriers. There are fewer public and private legal service providers. Those that exist can have long waitlists, be hours or days away, or be inaccessible because of gaps in the region’s cellular and Internet infrastructure. There are compounding factors too, such as high levels of unemployment and poverty, lack of housing and transportation, and addiction and mental health crises.

Dedicated approaches

Several of the 2023 Responsive projects focus on responding to the unique barriers faced by Indigenous and northern communities, offering dedicated approaches for these communities to better understand, access, and navigate the justice system.

For example, the John Howard Society of Simcoe & Muskoka will expand its digital access program to rural and remote communities, including Bracebridge, Collingwood, Gravenhurst, Midland, Penetanguishene, and Wasaga. The rotating clinics help the highly vulnerable and disproportionally criminalized populations to be supported through the court process. The clinics provide technology, referrals, and expertise, such as support for disclosure requests, digital access to court appearances, connection to legal and duty counsel, and record suspension applications.

Sault Ste. Marie Indian Friendship Centre, in partnership with Dr. Jane Dickson at Carleton University, will provide a Gladue Support Worker for Indigenous people in Sault Ste. Marie and surrounding communities. The project will support Gladue reports for bail hearings, a novel approach considering these are traditionally offered at the end, not the start, of a person’s interaction with the criminal justice system. The project will also document Indigenous people’s experiences with the process and the impacts of Gladue reports on the rates of remand and release, informing evidence-based approaches to Gladue generally.

Sudbury District Restorative Justice (SDRJ) will research and create a legal services process map and provide legal and social service referrals and systems navigation to low-income and marginalized youth and their families in the Greater Sudbury region. By increasing knowledge about the justice system and the way it operates, the project aims to help young people better resolve and reduce their interactions with the justice system.

2023 Responsive grants made

Below is the full list of 2023 Responsive grants made:

Expanding Aftermetoo legal information about workplace sexual harassment

Algoma Community Legal Clinic
Inclusive Housing Law Coordinator

Black Femme Legal
Understanding Transmisogynoir (Lawyers Edition)

Black Law Students’ Association of Canada
2024 BLSA Canada Conference

Canadian National Institute for the Blind Foundation
CNIB Guide Dog Handlers and Police Training

Capital Rainbow Refuge
Legal Guide to LGBTQIA+ Refugee Private Sponsorship Applications

Christie Refugee Welcome Centre
Centre for Refugee Children – Enhancing Child Representative Legal Support

Clinique juridique francophone d’Ottawa du Centre des services communautaires Vanier
Aîné.es Avisé.es

Community & Legal Aid Services Programme
ID Clinic – Expansion of Pilot Project

Community Justice Collective
Triaging legal needs of unhoused people and shelter-hotel residents

Community Living Ontario
Your Legal Guide to Special Education Rights in Ontario

COMPASS Refugee Centre
Canada-US Virtual Border Clinic Pilot

Disability Justice Network of Ontario
EnAbling Justice: Access and Autonomy for Disabled People Facing Criminalization in Ontario

Elizabeth Fry Society of Northeastern Ontario
Justice Navigation Project

Elizabeth Fry Society of Northwestern Ontario
Court Support Program

Elizabeth Fry Society of Peterborough
Developing Pre-Sentence Community Options for People who are Marginalized

Grey-Bruce Community Legal Clinic
Elder law capacity building in Grey-Bruce

Healing of the Seven Generations
Dehsahsodre Bail Release and Supervision Program

John Howard Society of Simcoe & Muskoka
Rural & Remote Access to Justice Clinics

Kijicho Manito Madouskarini Algonquin First Nation
Consultation Knowledge Building, Interpretation, and Implementation

Kinbrace Community Society
Making My Refugee Claim Resources Accessible to Refugee Claimants

Enhancing the Legal Capacity of Women International Students

Environmental Justice Education for Ontario Youth

Muslim Legal Support Centre
Advancing Access to Justice for Vulnerable Muslim Communities in Ontario

Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation
Community Justice Navigator and Legal Education Officers

Parents of Black Children
Law and Advocacy Initiative Project

Partners for Planning
Safe and Secure Futures: An Evergreen Approach, Partners for Planning

Queen’s University, Faculty of Law
Revitalizing Indigenous Legal Orders Clinical Course

San Lorenzo Latin American Community Centre
Conoce tus derechos laborales en Ontario (Know your rights in Ontario)

Sault Ste. Marie lndigenous Friendship Centre
Resisting Remand: A Gladue Bail Program for Indigenous People in Sault Ste. Marie

Scarborough Community Legal Services
Communities Building Justice Together: Increasing Access to Justice for Indigenous and Black communities in Scarborough

Sisters in Sync
We Got You, Sis

Society’s Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program
Legal Information for Indigenous People: National Edition

Sudbury District Restorative Justice
Legal System Navigation for Youth & Families

The Women’s Centre of Halton
Family Court Advocacy Program

Toronto Metropolitan University, School of Journalism
Canada Press Freedom Project: Legal Education for Media

Know Your Transit Rights

University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law
Innocence Ottawa Indigenous Prisoner Outreach

University of Toronto – Ontario Institute for Studies in Education – Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education
African, Caribbean, Black Family Group Conferencing Project

University of Windsor, Faculty of Law
Civil Procedure and Practice in Ontario: 2023 Edition

Whistleblowing Canada Research Society
Building Legal Supports for Marginalized Ontarians

[1] Government of Canada. “Overrepresentation of Indigenous People in the Canadian Criminal Justice System: Causes and Responses”.