Up to yesterday, the phone kept ringing at the African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) in Toronto.
But no one was there to take the calls.
And no recorded message came on to let callers know that the ACLC had finally closed its doors – effectively shut down by the Ontario government which withdrew its funding for the more than 20 year old community institution.
Several months ago, many in Toronto’s Black community, angry about the funding cut, said they expected that the clinic would be closed.
And yesterday one of the board members of the AFLC confirmed what by then was already known in the community.
“Yes, the clinic has closed down,” she told the Caribbean Camera.
Earlier this year, two Ontario government ministries had announced that they would cut their funding for the ACLC which last year was the focus of considerable media attention after it was alleged that the ACLC board and management had ” engaged in financial mismanagement.”
A joint statement from the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services said that ” the government has made the decision to transition funding to other community agencies that serve the Black community across the GTA.”
“The Ministry of Children and Youth Services and the Ministry of the Attorney General will be working closely with these agencies to help ensure there is no gap in services and that existing clients experience a smooth transition to other service providers,” the statement noted.
” Our goal continues to be providing the Black community and Black youth with access to the resources and supports they need to succeed,” it added.
The current service contract with ACLC relating to the Attorney General’s Direct Accountability Program (DAP) ended March 31 last.
Last August, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) had announced that it would withdraw funding of the ACLC, effective September 30, 2017.
Every dollar of funding currently provided to ACLC will be redirected to a new organization to provide dedicated services to the Black community, said a news release from the Ontario government.
Incensed by the shutdown of the ACLC, many in the Black community say they are puzzled by the decision of the Ontario government to withdraw funding to the ACLC and redirect the money to a new organization.
As one well known community activist noted, ” if the funders had a problem with the board and management of the clinic, those problems could have been resolved without cutting off funding and effectively shutting down the clinic which has been providing an important service to the community for so many years.”
Margaret Parsons, executive director of the ACLC, could not be reached for commentl