Background: The COVID-19 pandemic saw increased rates of gender-based violence (GBV) and magnified systemic and longstanding inequalities, including gaps in service provision for survivors of GBV. As part of the Government of Canada’s strategy to address such gaps and barriers, a call for proposals was made by the Department of Justice for organizations who wished to provide holistic legal services (including independent legal advice and representation) to survivors of sexual violence and intimate partner violence.
After submitting an aligned application, JFCY and eight sister legal clinics were successful in obtaining more than four years (December 2021 to March 2026) of funding through the Victims Fund and the Justice Partnership and Innovation Fund, with a total investment from the Department of Justice of $6.6 million. Our collaborative project is called Your Way Forward.
Collaboration of Nine Legal Clinics: Over the duration of the project, the nine partner clinics will provide expanded legal services and support for survivors of sexual assault, family violence and intimate partner violence in both urban and rural settings in Ontario.
The Your Way Forward partner clinics are:
- Legal Assistance Windsor (LAW) in Windsor, serving Windsor & Essex County
- Elgin Oxford Legal Clinic (EOLC) in St. Thomas, serving Elgin & Oxford Counties
- Community Legal Assistance Sarnia (CLAS) in Sarnia, serving Sarnia & Lambton County
- Durham Community Legal Clinic (DCLC) in Oshawa, serving Durham County
- Peterborough Community Legal Centre (PCLC) in Peterborough, serving Peterborough County
- Northumberland Community Legal Centre (NCLC) in Cobourg, serving Northumberland County
- Community Legal & Advocacy Centre (CALC) in Belleville, serving Hastings, Prince Edward, Southern Lennox & Addington Counties
- Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) in Toronto, with a provincial mandate, serving tenants across Ontario
- Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY) in Toronto, with a provincial mandate, serving children and youth across Ontario
While providing services to clients who have experienced GBV is not new for legal clinics, these dedicated resources have provided much-needed additional staff support and leveraged new energy and expertise. The first step for some of our partner clinics is to complete a community needs analysis to ensure that the clinics’ service delivery is designed to best address the gaps observed on the ground in the local community. We will provide updates as service delivery evolves.
Your Way Forward & JFCY: JFCY has always provided services to children and youth in Ontario who have been victimized, including young people who experience family violence, particularly vertical family violence, victims of sexual assault, physical violence or domestic violence, and those exploited in the sex trade and human trafficking. The experience of violence leads to legal issues directly related to that experience, as well as a whole range of corollary legal issues that arise – each beset with access to justice barriers, and compounding the experience of trauma. For JFCY, this funding and project has meant expanding our services and capacity through increasing our legal staff complement by two experienced lawyers.
JFCY is also the central coordinating contact for the overall project. The Your Way Forward coordinator administers and manages the collaborative grant, and leads the collective efforts of the larger group, including connecting with relevant provincial stakeholders, and organizing the project’s Community of Practice and Steering Committee.
For more information on Your Way Forward, please contact Miriam Roger, Project Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org .
 See: “The Facts: Women and Pandemics,” Canadian Women’s Foundation, October 21, 2022, https://canadianwomen.org/the-facts/women-and-pandemics/.