‘Legal insurance policy’: Queen’s Legal Aid talks upcoming AMS referendum

Organisation’s 28-year unbroken history at risk in upcoming referendum 

Over 50 per cent of Queen’s Legal Aid clients are undergraduate students.
In November, the Queen’s Legal Aid (QLA) student fee increase of $0.50 was not passed in the AMS fall referendum. Blair Crew, Director of QLA, hopes students will consider the importance of the service in the upcoming winter referendum.
“We have a 28-year unbroken history providing services to Queen’s legal aid students,” Crew said in an interview with The Journal.
“Over the entire 50-year history of Queen’s Legal Aid, usually about 20 per cent of our clientele are Queen’s students, primarily undergrads. At the current time, over 50 per cent of our clients are Queen’s students.”
According to Crew, student clientele rose significantly during the pandemic due to unsanctioned gathering-related offenses. 
“Our largest area of demand for service right now is with respect to those administrative monetary penalties of $2,000 that students are facing.”
QLA also handles tenant matters.
“We represent only tenants, not landlords,” Crew said. 
“Between COVID-related complications to student tenancies or students that have gone remote and have been required to stay in Kingston […] there are a couple of notoriously bad landlords.” 
Cases concern a variety of issues, including illegal evictions and repair and maintenance issues. 
Students can also be represented by QLA when appearing in front of the University Student Appeal Board. 
“There have been several cases in the past few years where we’ve been successful in fighting an academic decision that would have meant that a student would have had to withdraw from the university,” Crew said. 
Since the fee increase didn’t pass in the Fall Referendum, Crew explained that QLA is now “locked” in the upcoming referendum to maintain the fee. 
“In the chances and the hopes for trying to preserve the levy from students, we are coming back with the question if they will simply reaffirm the existing $5.50 per student fee,” he said. 
According to Crew, the $5.50 serves as a “legal insurance policy” that allows all students access to a student case worker and a lawyer, who supervises their work. 
The upcoming referendum is especially significant because it will allow QLA to continue representing all Queen’s students, not just those who meet criteria set out by Legal Aid Ontario.
“Under our funding agreement with Legal Aid Ontario, which funds us several hundreds of thousands of dollars […] we’re allowed to represent Queen’s students who do not come from families that are below the poverty line as long as we have a fee for service arrangement with the student body.”

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