Muslims in Ontario face growing Islamophobia and discrimination. A first of its kind legal clinic in Ontario offers help.
Launched in 2019, the Muslim Legal Support Centre (MLSC) provides free culturally and linguistically informed legal information and services to Muslims in Ontario. Clients seek help in a wide range of legal areas including family law, immigration, criminal law, wills and estates, and human rights. The MLSC also helps identify and address systemic legal issues with the help of community partners.
“Muslims deal with many barriers when it comes to accessing legal justice and navigating the legal system,” says Iman Mohamed, MLSC’s Director. “Creating a centre that’s for us by us, while recognizing our many different identities and intersectionalities, is important in building a space of empowerment for the community, especially at a time when many individuals within Muslim communities feel unsafe or unheard.”
The MLSC began as a pilot project of the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, whose pro bono efforts were overwhelmed by the demand for culturally and linguistically appropriate legal services. The Law Foundation of Ontario supported the project’s development with Responsive and Capacity-building for an Inclusive Sector grants. MLSC now receives core funding through the Foundation’s Catalyst program.
“The MLSC is in a position to provide culturally competent and legally informed, practical, and sound advice to its clients,” says Iman. “There’s trust with the MLSC. We often hear, ‘I don’t understand what this legal issue or legal concept means, can you explain it to me?’ People trust that we will serve them with cultural or religious understanding and are prepared to help them with their unique legal challenges.
”For example, a participant at one of MLSC’s legal education sessions asked about filing for a divorce. Although the participant was religiously married, the marriage was not recognized under Ontario law. It is imperative that a lawyer providing advice in this situation understand the nuance of the question and can explain the differences between a religious marriage and marriage under Ontario law.
Demand for these culturally grounded and linguistic legal services is strong and growing. By the end of 2022, 350 participants attended MLSC’s public legal education sessions and intakes increased by 67%.
The MLSC knows the tough stuff that Muslim women go through. Whenever I need legal advice, I can always trust that it will be given with my gender, culture, and human rights in mind. – Muslim Legal Support Centre client
See more stories from our 2022 annual report