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How to Apply for Legal Aid in Canada?

The Canadian Legal Aid Program is there to fund and contribute to the territories and provinces to deliver legal aid services for financially disadvantaged people.

The following section describes what Legal Aid means to Canada, its purposes, and how to apply for legal aid in Canada?

What is Legal Aid in Canada?

It is a federal-territorial/provincial collaboration based on the responsibilities shared for criminal justice by the territorial/provincial government, under the constitutional authority for the administration of justice, including legal aid, and by the federal government, under the constitutional authority for criminal law procedures and making.

Legal aid services ensure that the Canadian justice system remains fair, accessible, and efficient, and even the financially disadvantaged applicants have access to justice. It also helps maintain public confidence in the justice system.

Legal aid funding for the territories in Canada is provided through consolidated access to justice services agreements. To deliver civil legal aid, financial support to Canada’s territories and provinces is provided through the Canada Social Transfer, as a responsibility of the Department of Finance, Canada.

The federal government does not provide direct legal aid services. In case of required assistance, an applicant should consult and contact the territorial and provincial legal aid plans’ web pages.

Purposes of Legal Aid

A resident of Canada could apply for a legal aid lawyer for domestic laws in Canada & the general areas of legal support:

  • Family law
  • Criminal law
  • Immigration issues

Applying for Legal Aid

For any legal advice or information, or to get a legal aid lawyer, an applicant should do one of the following:

  • Contact nearest legal aid location
  • Go to a courthouse location
  • Call the legal aid call center

Following are the ways to apply for legal aid in Canada:

Online Application

Following are the criterion you need to meet to be able to apply online for legal aid:

  • Receiving disability support program payments
  • New to Canada
  • No income-generating activities or unable to work for income
  • Incarcerated
  • Living in a shelter

Over Phone Application

You can simply call the Legal Aid Office in your territory/province through bell relay service anytime between 8 AM to 5 PM Monday to Friday. In case of limitations, the following measures can be taken to apply via phone:

  • If you’re in a detention center or jail, consult with a legal aid worker
  • When you’re in a hospital, consult or have someone consult your patient advocate or rights advisor
  • If you’re applying for legal aid for a matter of criminal nature and you’re out of custody, consult your lawyer

How to Apply for Legal Aid?

First and foremost, you need as much information as possible relating to your legal concern or issue before applying for legal aid assistance. If you are applying via phone, you might be referred to another legal aid service such as the duty counsel or another representative.

In some cases, you might apply for the certificate program. The legal aid office will provide legal representation for you free of cost for such situations.

If you’re applying for the certificate program or working and making whatever amount in income, you would be required to provide information regarding your finances, such as the description of assets, source of income, and amount.

In-person Application

The in-person application process is currently closed temporarily due to the pandemic. However, to apply in person, you would require the following:

  • Identification document of any form such as driving license, social insurance card, permanent resident card, or social insurance card
  • Any case-related documents such as separation agreements, court orders, criminal charges screening copy, police summons, indictment charges, etc.
  • Proof of current source of income and the amount (if applicable) in the form of social assistance cheque stubs, recent payment stubs, T4 slips, or employment insurance statements.
  • Up-to-date bank statements or bank book
  • Proof of monthly bills and expenses such as rent or mortgage payment receipts, gas, and hydro bills, credit card statements, car payment receipts, car insurance bills, etc.
  • The deed to your home, if you own one.
  • Proof of any unusual or unexpected expenses such as medical expenses or fees.

You will be asked to fill out a legal aid application form when you physically visit the legal aid office. You can get assistance from the staff present there.

In fact, you might be able to figure out right away whether you qualify for legal aid or not. Make sure you both inform the staff and mention in your form if you are in an emergency so they can provide immediate assistance. You can also get such assistance from community legal clinic staff.

Application via Phone

Following are the requirements if you are applying via phone:

  • You could be asked to mail 3-4 paystubs if you’re working for income.
  • You would be required to mail recent financial statements if you’re self-employed
  • Your social assistance status will be verified over the phone if you receive assistance from a disability support program.

How Long Does It Take for Legal Aid Services?

If your application for legal aid gets approval, you will be informed through your lawyer or by mail. You can get certificates faster in case of emergencies.

However, it’s important to remember that legal aid certificates are valid for 3 months, and you have to find a lawyer within this period to represent your case legally.

If your application for legal aid is refused, on the other hand, you can provide valid and definite reasons and appeal to revert this decision.

Eligibility for Funding

Since legal aid services are shared-cost programs between territorial/provincial and federal governments, territorial and provincial governments directly receive the federal contribution for the legal aid services delivery.

Refugee, Criminal, and Immigration Legal Aid

  • Territorial and provincial governments
  • State-funded counsel
  • Territorial and provincial legal aid service providers

Race and Culture Impact Assessments

  • Territorial and provincial governments
  • Territorial and provincial legal aid service providers
  • Non-profit or charitable organizations in Canada
  • For-profit corporations in Canada, when engaged in non-profit activities

Legal Advice for Sexual Harassment at Workplace Complainants

  • Charitable or non-profit organizations in Canada
  • Territorial or provincial governments, Crown corporations, municipal and regional governments, legal aid service providers, or an institution or agency thereof
  • Educational institutions in Canada, including colleges and universities
  • First nation, tribal council, band, regional, local, or national indigenous organizations
  • For-corporations in Canada, when engaged in non-profit activities.

Final Words

Legal aid is a social balancing system where the idea is to ensure equal justice for all. A lot of times, some people misuse these services. However, legal aid services are useful and supportive for financially disadvantaged people in pursuing justice.

Hopefully, we have been able to clarify the ins and outs of applying for legal aid and matters relating to eligibility and application.