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Ottawa, January 21, 2016 – About a hundred partners were gathered this evening to celebrate the first anniversary of the Ottawa Legal Information Centre (the Centre).

Open to the public since January 15, 2015, the Centre offers all Ontarians a free 30-minute meeting with a lawyer, whether in person or on the phone, in English or in French, and on a strictly confidential basis. The Centre provides citizens information that allows them to understand the legal issues they are faced with, make informed decisions and navigate the justice system.

The Centre, a four-year pilot project, has already proved its worth. In its first year, it has processed more than 1,130 service requests, most of them from low-income citizens (less than $30,000). Furthermore, 95% of those citizens weren’t represented by a lawyer.

Many notable guests were present at this celebration, including The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin. In her address focussing on access to justice issues, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada stated the following: “The work of the Ottawa Legal Information Centre is just one of many ways for us to help ensure that all Canadians—regardless of their financial circumstances—can avail themselves of the justice system and find fair and appropriate solutions to their legal problems. Projects like these cannot exist without the vision, dedication and hard work of many. My heartfelt congratulations go out to all the organizations and individuals who have initiated and contributed to this important project.”

The Centre is meant to be a unique service concept and an innovative and tangible answer to poor access to justice. It provides information in almost all areas of law to everyone, regardless of their financial situation. “By referring citizens to the appropriate resource from the start, the Ottawa Legal Information Centre not only helps citizens, but also frees up existing specialized resources and reduces costs and delays within the judicial system,” says Mr. François Baril, President of the AJEFO.

The Ottawa Legal Information Centre has been operating thanks to the financial contribution of the Department of Justice Canada through the Roadmap for Canada’s Official Languages 2013-2018. The encouraging results already allow the Centre to foresee continuing the pilot project and even replicating this model elsewhere in the province or Canada.

The Ottawa Legal Information Centre is an initiative of the Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario (AJEFO) which, for over 35 years, has been dedicated to improving access to justice in French in order to ensure equal access to justice in both official languages. The AJEFO raises awareness, and informs and educates legal professionals and the general public on their right to obtain legal services in the official language of their choice.