History

The Law Foundation of Ontario has evolved in many ways since it was first created in 1974, while staying true to its access to justice mandate.

The Law Foundation of Ontario was established in 1974 as an amendment to the Law Society Act. It was established to receive and use the interest on lawyers’ mixed trust accounts to support legal education, legal aid, legal research, and law libraries within Ontario.

In the early years, the bulk of the Foundation’s discretionary funding (i.e. the 25% not required by law to go to Legal Aid Ontario) went to institutions such as the Law Society of Ontario, law schools, and law libraries. Over time, the Foundation added its support to a much broader range of organizations, providing funding for innovative projects, services, and research.

Key milestones

1974
Established by the Law Society Act

1975
Makes first grants to law schools, promoting legal excellence and expanding community legal services

1979
With the Hon. Roy McMurtry and partners, supports creation of The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History

1993
Provides startup funding to launch the Class Proceedings Fund, which supports class action lawsuits in the public interest

1996
Establishes Guthrie Award to recognize outstanding contributions to access to justice

2001
Helps create Pro Bono Ontario, which helps lawyers give free legal services, and Ontario Justice Education Network, which fosters public understanding of the justice system

2005 & 2006
Develops new programs: Public Interest Articling Fellowship program to support careers in public interest law; Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship to build bridges and knowledge between the nonprofit sector and academia; and Roy & Ria McMurtry Endowment for youth

2006
Creates the Law and Innovation Fund to support access to justice initiatives serving marginalized communities

2007
With partners, creates the Law Commission of Ontario, which recommends law reforms to improve access to justice

2008
Commissions The Connecting Report to reduce language and distance barriers for Ontarians seeking justice

2009-2010
Receives first cy-près award and creates Access to Justice Fund to receive cy-près awards from class actions to make grants across Canada

2010
Makes first Access to Justice Fund call, which covers five theme areas: consumer rights; intimate partner violence; Indigenous legal needs; linguistic and rural barriers to access to justice; supports for self-represented litigants

2011
Acts on The Connecting Report and supports launch of multi-pronged The Connecting Project, which includes Connecting Ottawa, a community-based regional network addressing linguistic and other communication barriers

2015-2018
With new cy-près awards, makes Access to Justice Fund calls and grants in areas of: Indigenous peoples’ legal needs: investors’ rights; children and youth; consumers; public legal education, intake and referral; racialized communities; refugees; family law

2016
In partnership with Law Society of Ontario, establishes new way to report mixed trust accounts

2018
Launches Catalyst, a program to provide core funding to Ontario’s leading access to justice organizations. and funds 20 organizations

2018
Commissions Trusted Help, a research report to understand the role of trusted intermediaries in Ontario and how to support them in providing community-based legal information and referrals