Clinic History 1980-1995 - Community Advocacy & Legal Centre


Community Advocacy & Legal Centre
15 Year History - 1980-1995

Year by Year Highlights of Our Clinic History


Legal Clinics in Ontario


Legal clinics specializing in poverty law came into existence in Ontario in 1971.  Law students in Toronto's Parkdale area began offering legal services to the poor that year in areas of law not covered by the Ontario Legal Aid Plan when it was created in 1966.  The clinic system has grown over the years from that first clinic to the present 72 clinics in 1995.  In addition to several specialty clinics serving the elderly, the disabled, youth, injured workers and others, clinics exist in many (but not all) Ontario communities.


A legal clinic in Belleville


Hastings and Prince Edward Legal Services was funded as a community legal clinic in October, 1980.  The clinic had its roots in the local community and was seen as the successor to the Quinte Information and Assistance Centre which had closed that same year due to a lack of funding.  The Centre had functioned as a Landlord and Tenant Bureau and had offered advocacy in unemployment insurance, social assistance and consumer matters.  Bill Hockley, an original volunteer and employee with the centre became one of the legal clinic's first employees.



Official Opening of Hastings and Prince Edward Legal Services.  From left to right:  Jack Bradford, board member; Hugh O'Neil, MPP Quinte; James Taylor, MPP Prince Edward-Lennox; Lyle Langabeer, city alderman and Grant Bowers, director.  The office is located at 194 Front Street.


When the clinic was finally incorporated as a non-profit organization in April 1981, its objectives included:

  • operate a full service law office;

  • establish legal education programs;

  • publish legal education literature;

  • organize people or groups for test case or law reform purposes

As a non-profit community legal clinic, representing low income people, the involvement of the Board of Directors has been crucial to the functioning of the clinic.  A representative Board can ensure community issues are addressed.


Founding board members were:  Peter Coultas, Gerry O'Connor, Olive Amos, Lynn Chalmers, Terry Barratt, Rick Bough, Jack Bradford, Cathy Brandsma, Rod Follwell, Bert Gerling, Herb Koplowitz, Paul Russell and George Wilson.


In the early days, under the direction of Grant Bowers, Executive Director, clinic staff offered information, advice and representation in many areas of the law including more minor criminal matters, provincial offences, adoptions and name changes.  In 1981, at the request of our funders – Clinic Funding Committee of the Ontario Legal Aid Plan – the clinic’s Board of Directors reviewed the mandate, and developed new policies that favoured poverty law advocacy.  Legal services, community development and law reform activity became more focused on tenants’ rights, welfare and disability pensions, unemployment, workers’ compensation and consumer issues.


From a small, dark storefront office at 194 Front Street in Belleville, lawyer Grant Bowers; community legal workers Bill Hockley and Linda Law; and Evelyn Kerr, legal secretary, operated on a shoestring budget offering advocacy to people living on a low income.


Expanding Services Into Rural Areas


Funding for satellite offices in Picton and Madoc was granted in 1985.  By then, Karen McCullough had joined the clinic as Executive Director when Grant Bowers left in the clinic in 1984 for new challenges.  Michele Leering was hired to staff and promote the two satellite offices in Prince Edward County and Centre Hastings.  She replaced Karen McCullough as Executive Director when Karen took a new position with Downsview Community Legal Services.  A Bancroft satellite office was funded in 1987.


A Brief Survey of Special Highlights Over the Years 


This brief review of some of our special activities and accomplishments is by no means comprehensive.  We have simply tried to give a sense of the variety and complexity of some of the clinic’s work.  Understated in what follows is the importance of the legal casework we do daily on behalf of clinic clients.  In addition to the many special projects we do, clinic staff represent 300-350 new clinic clients annually, and give referrals, information and legal advice to another 3,000-4,000 people per year. 


Our daily work satisfies critical needs for our clients, i.e. maintaining a roof over their heads and food on their tables.  Many of our clients are in difficult financial or personal circumstances.


We simply could not accomplish what we do with what we have without the enthusiasm and commitment of the many Board and staff members who shared of their gifts and talents so fully over the past 15 years.


Read Year by Year Highlights of Our Clinic History