Pro Bono Ontario Celebrating 20 Years

Everyone deserves access to justice. Everyone has a role to play.

If all players in the justice system can adopt that fundamental mentality, Ontario has what it takes to achieve 100% access to justice. This would be an extraordinary accomplishment. It is in our grasp.

The private bar has a vital role to play, and PBO is uniquely positioned to help. We can’t wait to get started.

To view full transcript, please click here

Speaker1: [00:00:20] When I think about PBO, I think about the word service, I think about the word duty, I think about the words giving and helping

Speaker2: [00:00:30] Important critical and necessary. When I think of PBO, I think of access to justice, I think of empowerment, I think of enablement,

Speaker3: [00:00:42] Community support, volunteering and commitment, justice,

Speaker4: [00:00:48] Access, commitment,

Speaker5: [00:00:50] Innovative, dedicated, passionate, engaged.

Speaker6: [00:00:57] I think of a group strongly committed to ensuring access to justice for everyone.

Speaker7: [00:01:03] The starting point for PBO is about access to justice for low income citizens of Ontario starting 20 years ago. This year is the 20th anniversary and from a very modest beginning, PBO now serves over time to serve well over thirty thousand clients this year. But today, PBO is able to serve less than 50 percent of the inbound inquiries it gets from clients and citizens across the province.

Speaker3: [00:01:34] And that's really disappointing that there is that limit and the only one into less than one in two people who calls and actually gets to talk to someone

Speaker2: [00:01:43] Is it's very clear that PBO is serving a pressing need. And so that's an indication that PBO is providing an incredibly valuable super service to the community. The downside to that is that means that fifty five percent of people who need help desperately are not able to get it. And that's simply because we, you know, PBO doesn't have the resources to be able to get to every call.

Speaker6: [00:02:09] It's a cry for help from the broader community who just shows the importance for us doing what we're doing and doing that much more.

Speaker4: [00:02:15] It clearly indicates that we need to do more.

Speaker7: [00:02:21] What you realize is that people need help in just sorting through the complexity of the justice system here in Ontario and many times just talking through the problem with the caller with the client leads to a practical set of recommendations at the George Weston Group of Companies. We have a long tradition of corporate social responsibility, which is evolved into a more ambitious ESG program working with PBO and learning how we can help this despite our very group of skills and attributes. It's meant that we've had a high degree of engagement, and the program still resonates strongly with our colleagues across the business.

Speaker1: [00:03:03] Pbo represents an opportunity for individual lawyers and for law firms and corporate law departments to give back. It's an opportunity to play a role in ensuring access to justice, but also access to information information that helps people properly manage their legal affairs. One thing that our team has enjoyed is the networking that's available through these channels. When we take shifts on the hotline, it's a great way for lawyers to network and at the same time give back to the communities where we live and

Speaker2: [00:03:38] We're a small legal department at Nestlé. But that doesn't mean that it's any less important for us to give back to the community, and PBO is a wonderful way to do that. It creates opportunities that are so manageable for my team that they can make an immediate difference in just a few hours of time. I volunteer regularly with the hotline myself and I encourage my team members to do the same. And I really value the chance to be able to help members of the public connect with other lawyers at BMO.

Speaker6: [00:04:08] We take pro bono incredibly serious. It's deeply grounded in the bank's broader purpose. Statement in that statement is to boldly grow the good in business in life. And clearly there's a strong connection for the organization and for me personally, between providing services to underserved communities and providing the good to the communities in which we touch. Imo is proud to offer our services. We're proud to offer our financial support and we're proud that this is deeply aligned with our purpose statement.

Speaker3: [00:04:44] Pro bono work has been a priority for me throughout my legal career. How and lawyers feel very supported by management, who really values pro bono work and really values the work that we do for pro bono Ontario. And that's one of the reasons that the firm has been such a good fit for me personally, and I know that I'm not alone in that. Amongst my colleagues, pro bono culture is a really important part of all of our students and lawyers, and I think a really important part of the reason why they choose to start their careers and continue their career. Pbo provides us with great organized opportunities for our lawyers. There's a wide range of opportunities, the time commitments are manageable and there's great staff support. It all makes it easy to volunteer with PBO at any stage in your legal career.

Speaker5: [00:05:35] Gowling WLG is proud to be the first member firm of the 100 percent aide to J Leadership Circle and proud to have made a substantial long term financial commitment to PBO. We know that being a part of the leadership circle will help ensure that PBO can continue to protect and to promote access to justice for everyone in Ontario. We also know that there will be a pressing need for PBO to offer its vital services for many, many years to come, and I can say unequivocally that Cowlings will remain by PBO side as we navigate the access to justice journey together.

Speaker2: [00:06:20] At just about every level of the firm is supportive of pro bono initiatives and our relationship with Pro-bono Ontario in particular, whether it's to the law, help centres and the duty counsel projects that we participate in. Also, through our engagements that we have had on our own and also with clients to get involved, it's a really great collaboration.

Speaker4: [00:06:46] In 2006, RBC was the first law group in Canada to develop a pro bono policy in partnership with Pro Bono Ontario. We have always viewed pro bono as both a professional obligation and an expression of RBCs commitment to helping clients thrive and communities prosper, and we have relied on PBO to provide our legal team with meaningful pro bono opportunities. It is not too late to join us. Pbo is the premier resource for law firms and legal departments interested in building or expanding their pro bono programs. They stand by to assist with building the infrastructure and linking your firm to pro bono opportunities. We hope you will help us reach our goal of one hundred percent access to justice so that we can ensure that no person in need of assistance is left behind.

Speaker5: [00:07:38] As law firm leaders, it's hugely important that we lead by example and walk the talk.

Speaker6: [00:07:45] Pbo is the arm through which we are able to offer legal time of our attorneys who have a strong interest and commitment to ensuring access to justice for everyone. And through PBO programs, we're able to afford our attorneys those opportunities and they in turn, are able to help the communities in which we live.

Speaker2: [00:08:06] People can't access justice. We're really not delivering on the democratic ideals that are supposed to underpin our country. And so we're helping to bridge that gap and giving people access to real justice is is probably one of the most important things we can do to contribute to our society. And it's it's something we can do through the PBO and make a real concrete difference in the world around us.