Thursday, January 13, 2011

Law Firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC) in Partnership with Pro-Bono Law Ontario Help Grandparents Continue Caring For Grandkids

Social Benefits Tribunal Finds Ministry Practices Still at Odds with the Law TORONTO – January 10, 2011 – A second victory before the Ontario Social Benefits Tribunal concerning grandparent caregivers’ eligibility for Temporary Care Assistance (TCA) has sent a clear message to the Ontario government and social service administrators that their practices remain out of step with the law. This successful result comes less than a year after an initial victory before the Tribunal on a separate appeal on access to TCA benefits.

Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC), one of Canada’s leading business and litigation law firms, represented Wendy O’Riley in this latest appeal on a pro bono basis in partnership with Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO). Ms. O’Riley is a Chatham, Ontario grandmother who lost her TCA benefits after caring for her granddaughter for more than eight years. Supported only by a fixed seniors’ income, Ms. O’Riley does not own her own home and lives below the poverty line.

The Tribunal’s decision that restored Ms. O’Riley’s TCA benefits represents a ringing endorsement of its earlier decision in an appeal brought by Oshawa grandmother Marika Vandewater. Ms. Vandewater, who was also represented by FMC, had been caring for her grandson for nine years when her TCA benefits were abruptly cancelled. Coupled with the Vandewater decision, the result in Ms. O’Riley’s appeal brings strengthened hope to vulnerable grandparent caregivers across Ontario who risk losing TCA benefits and face the prospect of deepening poverty.

The Tribunal in Ms. O’Riley’s appeal adopted the legal findings in the Vandewater decision, including that: TCA benefits are intended for people in financial need; there is a problem of regional variance in determining TCA eligibility; the length of time that a child is in care does not itself demonstrate that the care is not “temporary”; and, of particular importance, the Ontario Works Act, being social remedial legislation, must be given a “broad and liberal interpretation.”

Ms. O’Riley was represented by FMC’s Doug Stewart through the firm’s pro bono initiatives with PBLO. “This case highlights the social injustices faced by these families,” says Mr. Stewart. “Ms. O’Riley stepped in to care for her granddaughter, and encountered numerous obstacles along the way. The province’s rules make it difficult to be a caregiver, but it would now appear that the Ministry must bring practices in line with the principles espoused in the O’Riley and Vandewater decisions.”

“Without my lawyer, I would have lost my benefits like all the other grandparents who went to the Tribunal alone,” says Ms. O’Riley. Mr. Stewart agrees that “working with PBLO gives us a chance to bring about change for people like Ms. O’Riley, and draw unfair practices to the attention of the Ontario government and the public.”

Lynn Burns, PBLO’s Executive Director, appreciates the value of FMC’s pro bono contribution. “It is heartening to see a top law firm dedicate this much time and talent to a pro bono initiative, especially one that serves vulnerable families,” says Ms. Burns. “FMC’s tenacity and commitment prove law firms take seriously their role in enhancing access to justice through pro bono activities.”

Read about this case here:

For more information on FMC’s pro bono work, please visit their web site: About Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC) FMC is one of Canada’s leading business and litigation law firms with more than 500 lawyers in six full-service offices located in the country’s key business centres. We focus on providing outstanding service and value to our clients and we strive to excel as a workplace of choice for our people. Regardless of where you choose to do business in Canada, our strong team of professionals possess knowledge and expertise on regional, national and cross-border matters. FMC’s well-earned reputation for consistently delivering the highest quality legal services and counsel to our clients is complemented by an ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusiveness to broaden our insight and perspective on our clients’ needs. Visit: About Pro Bono Law Ontario Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) is a charitable organization that promotes access to justice in Ontario by creating and promoting opportunities for lawyers to provide pro bono (free) legal services to persons of limited means. For details, visit For further information, please contact: Jennifer Dales Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP 416 862 3405 Kelly Olive Maverick Public Relations 416 640 5525, ext. 230 To ensure you read the latest version of this post, please visit as this post may have been modified since being sent out.

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