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Federal funding to help legal clinics fight workplace sexual harassment

Federal funding of $3.7 million over five years will assist area legal clinics deal with sexual harassment in the workplace issues.

The funds, announced Tuesday in Cobourg, support a proposal submitted by the Northumberland Community Legal Centre, on behalf of a ‘Co-ordinated Legal Advice and Services’ project partnership between 20 community legal clinics that include Belleville’s Community Advocacy & Legal Centre (CALC), which assists residents of Prince Edward County.

“We are delighted to receive this $40,000 grant annually for the next five years from the federal government to expand awareness of how to deal with legal problems in the workplace – specifically to help people who are being sexually harassed” said CALC Executive Director Michele Leering who attended the announcement by Federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti.

“This grant recognizes the responsive, sensitive, and proactive approaches taken by community lawyers and legal workers who work at clinics like CALC,” said Leering. “Our ability to be trusted by, work with, and advocate for people who are experiencing traumatizing incidents in the workplace and who are vulnerable to discrimination and exploitation is respected.”

According to a 2014 Angus Reid Institute study, 28% of Canadians reported they have been sexually harassed while at work: 43 per cent of women and 12 per cent of men (http://angusreid.org/sexual-harassment/).

A 2017 online study by Employment and Social Development Canada found 30 per cent of employees had experienced sexual harassment and women, people with disabilities and members of a visible minority were most at risk.

“Our efforts over the past decade to work collaboratively with neighbouring community legal clinics to expand legal help to people living on a low income on common legal problems is bearing even more fruit,” noted Peter Kerr, CALC’s Board of Directors’ Chairperson. “This timely support from the federal government is especially appreciated, coming at a time when CALC’s other legal advice programs are chronically underfunded, with more provincial government funding cuts to Legal Aid Ontario still to come next year.”

Executive Director Lois Cromarty stressed the importance of having 20 community legal clinics involved as the project expands is critical because small urban, rural and remote communities are diverse and dispersed.

“It is so important that the legal information and advocacy approaches be tailored to the employees and communities who need this help. With a vibrant 40-year history in Ontario, community legal clinics have been proven to have the best tools to reach the people who need this holistic and preventative legal help the most.”

The Community Advocacy & Legal Centre (CALC) is a non-profit community legal clinic principally funded by Legal Aid Ontario. The clinic was founded in 1980 and provides poverty law services to low income residents of Hastings, Prince Edward and Lennox & Addington counties. The clinic’s main office is in Belleville, with satellite locations in Trenton, Picton, Napanee, Amherstview, Bancroft and Madoc. For more information, visit CALC’s website at www.communitylegalcentre.ca

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