Health Justice Program
The Health Justice Program is a partnership between St. Michael’s Hospital Academic Family Health Team, St. Michael’s Hospital and legal clinics ARCH Disability Law Centre, Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto, HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic of Ontario and Neighbourhood Legal Services. The partnership is funded through Legal Aid Ontario with in-kind contributions from all partners.
What services do you provide?
- Legal information, referrals and brief services
- Legal education with the health team and patients
- Systemic advocacy project work grounded in community engagement
Who do you provide service to?
We aim to support patients who are low-income and have legal issues affecting their well-being, such as experiences of discrimination, personal safety, and problems with employment, family, and housing. We encourage patients who are in unstable housing, identify as aboriginal, as having a disability or have HIV/AIDS to access our services.
What are the Health Justice Program’s goals?
Our mission statement helps guide us in our goals:
1. Improve access to justice
2. Address the social determinants of health and health equity in our community
How do I make contact with the Health Justice Program?
1. Contact us directly
2. Ask to be referred to us through your doctor, nurse practitioner, social worker or other health care provider
What should I expect when speaking with the legal assistant, law students, or lawyer?
- Please ask for translation services and/or disability related accommodations
- Phone or in person appointments are around 30 minutes long
- At a minimum, we will give you legal information and a referral to legal services in the community
- Bring or have relevant documents ready for review
- To assess our program, we will ask you confidential questions that will remain anonymous. Answering these questions is voluntary
Legal administrative assistant, Marcello Ferrara
Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where else can I go for information about my rights?
The Legal Aid Ontario Client Services Centre may be able to give you direction on legal service available to you: 1-800-668-8258.
The Human Rights Legal Support Centre can give you guidance on a potential human rights application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario:
Tel: (416) 597-4900
Toll free: 1-866-625-5179
TTY: (416) 597-4903
TTY toll free: 1-866 612-8627
Telephone lines are open:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursday: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The Law Society Referral Service is another option for finding a lawyer for a free consult on your legal problem. It is now an online system. You can ask to speak to a specific type of lawyer for a free consult. You will have a free 30 minute initial meeting with a lawyer, either by telephone or in person. In order to access this service, you will need to submit a request online, which you can access at https://lsrs.lsuc.on.ca/lsrs.
You may also contact our partner clinics directly:
ARCH Disability Law Centre
55 University Avenue
Tel. Toll-free: 1-866-482-2724
TTY Toll-free: 1-866-482-2728
Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto
211 Yonge Street, Suite 500
HALCO – HIV & Aids Legal Clinic of Ontario
Phone: 416-340-7790 or
toll-free in Ontario 1-888-705-8889
55 University Avenue, Suite 1400
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5J 2H7
Neighbourhood Legal Services
101 – 163 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON M5A 1S1
Tel: 416-861-0677 | Fax: 416-861-1777
A CFPC-accredited series about health-harming legal needs of patients in primary care
This regular recurring education series will draw on the first four years of experience of the Health Justice Program at St. Michael’s Family Health Team to assist professionals in a primary health care setting identify and effectively address important and common health impacting social needs that may have legal solutions. Legal support can be invaluable in many situations that seem hopeless for primary care patients and their providers: fighting eviction, securing disability benefits, accessing full citizenship status, navigating family courts in times of crisis, stabilizing family decision-making for vulnerable adults. Your work with patients in these legal situations can influence their access to justice related to their key social determinants of health. Health Justice Tuesdays will support you to spot issues early on, make good referrals to legal supports, and help avoid cascading crises.
- To identify when a health harming social need might have a legal solution
- To identify situations that are high risk for deteriorating into an intractable legal problem and how to access preventative services
- To become familiar with available community legal resources for patients
- To apply knowledge gained to effectively and efficiently triage and direct patients to appropriate legal services
- To identify community or system level issues and how to participate in advocacy efforts to address
Cross-professional education is uncommon: Typically experts from one profession speak “at” other experts. We have developed content through shared leadership; each workshop will be co-facilitated by a health and legal expert basing the curriculum on the most referred issues to the Health Justice Program in its first four years of existence and our partner expertise.
Topics and dates from the 2019 series
|Jan. 8, 2019||HJP Introduction – Dr. Rami Shoucri and Jennifer Stone|
|Feb. 12, 2019||Health and Housing Law – Dr. Andrew Bond and Benjamin Ries|
|March 19, 2019||Health and Family Law – Dr. Kathleen Doukas and Ishbel Ogilvie|
|April 9, 2019||Health and Income Security Law – Dr. Gary Bloch and Anu Bakshi|
|May 14, 2019||Health and Immigration Law – Dr. Vanessa Redditt and Jennifer Stone|
|May 28, 2019||Legal Issues affecting people living w HIV/AIDS – Dr. Gordon Arbess and Ryan Peck|
|June 18, 2019||Health, Law and Indigenous Peoples – Melissa Stevenson, Dr. Fatima Uddin and Emily Hill
– Presentation slides (pdf file)
|Sept. 10, 2019*||Health and Capacity, Decision-Making, and Advanced Care planning – Dr. Bill Sullivan and Mercedes Perez|
|Sept. 24, 2019||Health and Employment Law – Dr. Andrew Pinto and Nabila Qureshi|
|Oct. 8, 2019||Health and Criminal Justice System – Flora Matheson and Promise Holmes Skinner|
|Nov. 19, 2019||Health and Human Rights Law – Dr. Laurie Green and Kerri Joffe|
This Group Learning program has been certified by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Ontario Chapter for up to 11 Mainpro+ credits.
Dr. Gordon Arbess is a staff physician in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. He specializes in HIV primary care and has an extensive clinical HIV practice. He is the clinical director of the HIV/AIDS program at the St. Michael’s Family Health Team, the director of the HIV Fellowship Program at the University of Toronto, and is on faculty at the University of Toronto. A native of Montreal, he is a graduate from McGill University (BSc. Honors) and did his medical degree at Queen’s University, then completing his residency in family medicine at the University of Toronto. His clinical interests are in HIV and Aging, HIV and mental health and HIV and cardiovascular health. He has lectured extensively across Canada, France, China and Zimbabwe on topics related to HIV/AIDS and has appeared in the media including the CTV National News, Citytv, Global, CBC, CFRB and the Toronto Star. He was the recipient of the OHTN Jay Browne Living Legacy Award for excellence in HIV care in 2009. Dr. Arbess is a director on the Board of the Family Health Team at St. Michael’s Hospital. He is on staff at Casey House Hospice. In 2014, Dr. Arbess was awarded the Award of Excellence in Social Responsibility by the University of Toronto. Dr. Arbess is on the Board of Directors of Veahavta: The Canadian Jewish Humanitarian & Relief Committee, and the board of directors of Project Give Back and a former board member of Holy Blossom Temple. Dr. Arbess is married to his wife Sharon and has three children: Josh, Adam and Liv. He lives in Toronto. He enjoys cycling, skiing and tennis in his spare time.
Anu Bakshi has been a health justice lawyer at Carranza LLP since 2002. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Saskatchewan and obtained her LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School. Her legal focus is access to justice for people with disabilities. Her practice consists of administrative law as well as insurance litigation. She has appeared before the Superior Court of Justice, Social Security Tribunal of Canada, License Appeal Tribunal and Workplace and Safety Appeals Tribunal. She has a special interest in long-term disability cases. Bakshi was one of the founders of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, a legal aid clinic that services the most vulnerable members of that community, and currently serves on the Board of Directors. Anu teaches part-time at Seneca College. She is also a part-time member of the Toronto Licensing Tribunal.
Dr. Gary Bloch is a family physician with St. Michael’s Hospital and Inner City Health Associates. His clinical, education, research, advocacy, and program development focuses on the role of health providers in addressing the social determinants of health. He is a founding member of the advocacy group Health Providers Against Poverty, and the group of physicians working with the homeless, Inner City Health Associates. He is chair of the St. Michael’s Family Health Team Social Determinants of Health Committee, and has been involved in the development of its unique suite of social determinants-focused interventions. Bloch is regularly asked to speak locally and internationally. He has served as a social policy consultant for governmental and non-governmental entities.
Dr. Andrew Bond is the medical director of Inner City Health Associates, a group of 92 physicians including 56 family physicians, 35 psychiatrists and two internists providing health care to the homeless at 52 locations across Toronto. He is also a staff physician at St Michael’s Hospital in the Department of Family Medicine, a clinical lead (housing) as a faculty member of the Health Justice Program at St. Michael’s Hospital, and a lecturer in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Laurie Green is a family physician in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital with a special interest in the health care of adults and children who have different abilities and their families. She also has an interest in the intersection of patient care and social determinants of health, particularly as it relates to education and employment.
Kerri Joffe is a staff lawyer at ARCH Disability Law Centre, where she advocates to protect and advance human rights for persons with disabilities. She has been involved in disability rights litigation at various tribunals and courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada. Joffe has made law reform and policy submissions to parliamentary committees, governments, administrative bodies and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She has authored law reform reports for the Law Commission of Ontario and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Joffe completed McGill University’s joint program in law and social work (2006) and received her LL.B., B.C.L. and master’s of Social Work degrees with great distinction. Before attending law school, Joffe worked with adults with mental health disabilities and children labelled with intellectual disabilities.
Dr. Flora Matheson is a sociologist who conducts research on social marginalization and the social determinants of mental health, illicit drug use, alcohol consumption, problem gambling and crime with a gender lens. Dr. Matheson has used a variety of methodological and statistical approaches to explore inequities in health including survival analysis to understand gender-based co-morbidity of mental and physical health problems in large administrative data; multilevel modeling to understand gender-based inequities in health within the context of neighbourhood marginalization; concept mapping to explore gendered perceptions of problem gambling; in-depth qualitative interviews to explore the co-addictions of illicit drug use and problem gambling among men and women; reintegration experiences of women transitioning from prison to community; and problem gambling in the correctional setting.
Ishbel Ogilvie is a graduate of York University and the University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Law. After her call to the bar in 1992, she maintained a private practice in Toronto for seven years, primarily in the area of family law. In 1999, Ishbel became a staff lawyer for Legal Aid Ontario in Toronto, practicing criminal law from 1999 until 2001. In 2001, Legal Aid assigned her to supervise the Family and Criminal Law Duty Counsel programs in Niagara. Returning to Toronto in 2005, she manages the Family and Youth Criminal Duty Counsel programs for the Legal Aid Ontario are of Toronto Central, with her offices located at the Ontario Court of Justice at 311 Jarvis Street. Ogilvie also supervises and trains law students from both the University of Toronto Law School and Osgoode Hall who participate in Pro Bono Students Canada’s Family Law Project to benefit litigants at both 311 Jarvis and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice at 393 University Avenue, Toronto.
Ryan Peck graduated from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law in 2000. Since 2007, he has been executive director of the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO), where he was previously both an articling student and a staff lawyer. Peck has worked as a staff lawyer at the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, and in the Tenant Duty Counsel Program at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario. He has also served as criminal duty counsel at Toronto’s Old City Hall. Peck is a member of the Ontario Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS, which provides advice to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and co-chair of the Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law and HIV Exposure.
Mercedes Perez (B.A., University of Toronto; M.A., University of Chicago; LL.B. McGill University) was called to the Ontario Bar in 2003, and is a partner at Perez Bryan Procope LLP with focused expertise in administrative and constitutional law, civil litigation and appeals. Perez has represented clients before a range of administrative tribunals and at all levels of court in Ontario, Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada. She specializes in mental health/ capacity law, guardianship proceedings, disability rights, police and correctional abuse, elder law and Charter litigation. She has advocated on behalf of clients at hundreds of Ontario Review Board and Consent and Capacity Board hearings and is active in appeals from decisions of these tribunals. She has received numerous amicus curiae appointments from the Ontario Court of Appeal in mental health and capacity appeals. Perez has represented many clients in contested power of attorney matters. Perez co-instructs the Law and Psychiatry course at Osgoode Hall Law School. As a member and former vice-chair of the Mental Health Legal Committee, she has prepared submissions on proposed provincial and federal legislative reform bills. She has been a frequent speaker on capacity, constitutional and administrative law matters at law conferences and continuing legal education programs.
Dr. Andrew Pinto is the founder and director of The Upstream Lab. He is a public health and preventive medicine specialist and family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital. Dr. Pinto completed his residency at the University of Toronto and his master’s in Health Policy, Planning and Financing at the London School of Economics and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as a Commonwealth Scholar. Currently, he is a scientist in the Centre for Urban Health Solutions at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.
Nabila Qureshi joined the Income Security Advocacy Centre as a staff lawyer in 2018 and works on test case litigation relating to employment law and workers’ rights, poverty law, and income security. Prior to joining ISAC, she practised employment and human rights law at a boutique law firm in downtown Toronto. She regularly advised employees and employers on issues impacting employee health, including the accommodation of disabilities in the workplace, workplace harassment, and disability insurance issues. Qureshi has acted as counsel before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, including the Divisional Court, and the Supreme Court of Canada. She was called to the Ontario bar in 2016 after completing her articles at a leading Bay St. firm, and graduated from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law.
Dr. Vanessa Redditt is a staff family physician at the Crossroads Clinic, a specialized primary care clinic serving newly arrived refugees, at Women’s College Hospital. She also works with Inner City Health Associates at Sistering Drop In and FCJ Refugee Centre. Redditt is interested in enhancing the health of marginalized individuals and communities through clinical care, health system improvement, and tackling social inequities. She is a lecturer at the University of Toronto and is also conducting research on the health status of newly arrived refugees and their experiences in the health care system, with a goal of improving clinical practices, care delivery models, and social services to better support this population.
Benjamin Ries, B.A.(Hons.) (Waterloo, 2006), J.D. (Toronto, 2009), LL.M. (Toronto, 2011) supervises the Housing Law division at Downtown Legal Services, a community legal education program of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Ries has worked with Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, served as duty counsel at the Landlord and Tenant Board, and practiced as a staff lawyer in four other community legal clinics between Hamilton and downtown Toronto. He has lectured, trained, and presented on topics arising from low-income housing law to several local universities and colleges, community associations, the Ontario Bar Association, and the Law Society of Ontario. Ries and his students conduct tenant-side litigation before the Landlord and Tenant Board, the Small Claims Court, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and the Divisional Court.
Dr. Rami Shoucri is a family physician based at the St. Michael’s Hospital Academic Family Health Team. He is also the clinical champion for the Health Justice Program and the chair of the Advocacy Committee for the Family Health Team.
Promise Holmes Skinner is an Anishnaabe lawyer. She runs her own defence firm in Toronto and has appeared at trial level and appellate level courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada and the Ontario Court of Appeal. She is an adjunct professor at U of T Law and an instructor at Osgoode Hall Law School. Skinner graduated from U of T Law in 2013 with a juris doctor and a certificate in Aboriginal Legal Studies. She articled with criminal defence firm Greenspan Humphrey Weinstein and was called to the bar in Ontario in 2014. Later that year, Skinner took a position heading the Indigenous Initiatives Office at the Faculty of Law at U of T for two years and was the senior manager, Gladue Program Specialist at Aboriginal Legal Services for three years. Skinner is regularly invited across Canada to speak about legal issues faced by Indigenous people and has spoken in the United States and New Zealand. Skinner is also a contributing author on two legal text books, including one for lawyers assisting clients who are members of the LGBTQ2 community.
Jennifer Stone is a staff lawyer at Neighbourhood Legal Services, currently on secondment as the onsite lawyer to the Health Justice Program, which is a partnership of the St. Michael’s Hospital Family Health Team (FHT), Aboriginal Legal Services, ARCH Disability Law Centre, HIV and AIDS Legal Clinic of Ontario, and Neighbourhood Legal Services. This program’s vision is to facilitate access to justice as a means of improving the social determinants of health for low income patients of the FHT.
Dr. Fatima Uddin is a family doctor practicing in downtown Toronto at two community health centres, Anishnawbe Health Toronto and Regent Park Community Health Centre. Anishnawbe Health Toronto is the city’s only Aboriginal health access centre, mandated to provide primary care to Toronto’s urban Indigenous population. AHT is uniquely positioned to harmonize western and traditional models of care offering access to a range of health care services including traditional healing. Regent Park CHC is situated in the Canada’s largest public housing project, which is currently in the midst of a mixed income redevelopment. RPCHC’s focus remains on providing primary care to non-insured, homeless, newcomer and other marginalized communities with a focus on health equity and harm reduction. Once every couple of months, Dr. Uddin also provide addictions care in the First Nation community of Fort Hope, which is a fly-in community located 300 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.
Dr. Uddin was born in Bangladesh and arrived in Canada at the age of nine. Since then she has lived in Toronto and completed her education including medical school at the University of Toronto and family medicine residency based at Toronto East General Hospital (now Michael Garron Hospital). After completing her residency, Dr. Uddin completed a one-year fellowship in Indigenous Health which took her to places like Moose Factory and Iqaluit.
Program development is supported by the Health Justice Program, a 2017 AFHTO Bright Lights Award, and a Nasmith Grant from the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.
For more information
Please contact clinical champion for the Health Justice Program, Dr. Rami Shoucri at Rami.Shoucri@unityhealth.to
Last updated August 20, 2021