By: Dan Ciarabellini, Director
It is with overwhelming pride that we make public today one of the biggest victories in our clinic's history.
Fair Change has succeeded in fundamentally changing the administrative appellate processes applicable to appeals under the Provincial Offences Act in the City of Toronto! The importance of this cannot be overstated.
Up until this point in time, an appeal from 'tickets' (e.g. for panhandling, public intoxication, etc) was extremely, prohibitively paperwork-intensive. For each offence, 3-4 administrative documents had to be completed. This meant that, until just recently, very large appeals were extraordinarily difficult (and in many cases: practically impossible) for our clinic - which is comprised entirely of volunteer law students, lawyers, and a social worker - to undertake.
But, this year, the clinic was expanded dramatically - and a point was made to undertake a collective effort to take on the biggest appeal of our history: a client who had nearly 500 unpaid tickets, with a standing debt of over $70,000.00.
Everyone pitched in - and the end result was paperwork to be submitted totaling around 2,000 pages. Accomplishing this required indescribable time and effort.
Old City Hall - the Toronto courthouse where all Toronto POA appeals take place - was completely unprepared, and in fact unable, to accommodate an appeal submission of this size. It is, without question, the largest POA appeal they had ever been faced with. And they recognized their administrative processes were not properly designed to handle an appeal of this magnitude.
This collective effort on the part of our clinic has resulted in Fair Change being given permission to utilize a new, simpler 'mass appeals' process - requiring almost no paperwork. One set of forms will be submitted for ALL offences appealed, along with an attached Excel spreadsheet.
This means, in practical terms, that an appeal which would have formerly taken many volunteers and dozens or hundreds of hours will now only take one volunteer and several hours.
This also means that this appeal is only the tip of a brand new iceberg. It means we can finally make a truly widespread impact on the massive ticket-debt(s) affecting Toronto's most vulnerable demographic: the street-involved.
Despite being a ragtag troupe of volunteers, with almost no funding and even less free time, we have managed to effect a structural change in the local justice system.
We want to thank all of our personnel for all of their hard work in making this happen. This is the beginning of something truly remarkable.