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Pro Bono Students Lead Queen's Park Bill

Queen’s volunteers with Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) are enjoying the great satisfaction of seeing their work impact all of Ontario through a bill debated and approved at Queen’s Park on March 29 for referral to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills. It was students Olga Michtchouk, Law’18, Ben Clarke, Law’19, and Taylor Burnie, Law’19, working with volunteer lawyer supervisor Karla McGrath, LLM’13, who identified an issue that arose in a PBSC clinic program and elevated it to prospective legislation. Helping people get or replace Ontario photo ID cards exposed the problem, McGrath explains: marginally housed or transient people often had neither the “permanent address” nor the $35 application fee. Applying also requires prior identification, including a $35 birth certificate. Having no card leaves many people without access to needed services and with no bank account for direct-deposit disability payments. Generous donations from the Frontenac Law Association and Awesome Kingston Foundation provided a “workaround” resolution for some local clinic clients, but the underlying fee problem remained. The students’ response was their “PBSC Fee Waiver Initiative.”

In December 2017, the Queen’s team enlisted the support of Kingston MPP Sophie Kiwala, who brought Bill 26, The Fee Waivers Act, to the Ontario legislature as a private member’s bill. “Many agencies working with low-income people have expressed significant interest and appreciation,” says McGrath, “so this isn’t just a Kingston issue. Getting Bill 26 approved will mean our Queen’s Law students have made an impact on the entire province.”

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