The South Asian community makes up a significant portion of Ontario’s diverse social and cultural fabric. According to the 2016 Census, South Asian was the single largest visible minority group, accounting for 29.6% of visible minorities and 8.7% of Ontario’s total population. At the same time, many South Asians, especially those who are newcomers in the province, continue to face numerous challenges as they navigate their day-to-day lives. Significantly, our communities face many barriers to accessing the legal system, including systemic discrimination, racism, language barriers, and poverty.
DID YOU KNOW
207,380 South Asian people in Ontario live in poverty. That is approximately 18% of the South Asian population of Ontario. Studies also show that racialized communities, like the South Asian community, are more likely to fall into poverty because of systemic barriers, such as racism. South Asians continue to live in poverty at disproportionate needs.
How SALCO was born:
In the 1990’s a group of law students and community activists recognized the need for better access to justice for South Asians living in poverty. They also understood that this need can only be fulfilled by providing culturally sensitive and language specific services. Thus, the seed for SALCO was planted.
A Timeline of SALCO:
- From 1999 to 2001, SALCO was run as a volunteer clinic by South Asian lawyers and activists.
- From 2001 onwards, it began receiving project-based funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario (the LFO) to provide services through a lawyer and community legal worker. The LFO supported the vision of a permanent ethno-racial legal clinic for South Asian communities.
- In 2007, with tremendous community support and the hard work and dedication of volunteer lawyers, activists and SALCO’s limited staff, SALCO was granted permanent funding as a legal clinic from Legal Aid Ontario.
SALCO’s achievements and contributions:
Since receiving permanent funding, SALCO has become a leader on issues of access to justice within racialized communities. We work with thousands of clients a year and also advocate for reforming laws that negatively impact our communities. We are the only clinic in all of Ontario (and Canada) that provides legal services in multiple South Asian languages, including Hindi, Urdu, Bangla, Tamil, Kannada and Punjabi.
- SALCO has appeared at the Supreme Court of Canada, the Ontario Court of Appeal, and the federal courts on issues of immigration, religious/racial discrimination, social assistance, criminal sentencing, and access to justice;
- We led a campaign to raise awareness on forced marriage in Canada:
- We released a seminal report on the incidence of forced marriage in Ontario
- We created a toolkit and conducted national training sessions on forced marriage for service providers.
- We have also taken an advisory role at all levels of government on supports for forced marriage clients;
- SALCO has actively advocated for immigration reforms to support family reunification, barriers for low-income clients, barriers for those facing gendered violence, and to end indefinite immigration detention;
- We routinely make submissions to politicians at all levels of government on poverty within the South Asian community, on employment equity, on anti-racism, on violence against women, on systemic racism within the justice sector, on immigration reform, on family law reforms, and on access to justice.
- SALCO is a proud co-founder and a member of the steering committee of the Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change campaign, which advocates on the disproportionate impact of poverty on racialized communities.