Legal Aid Program

Overview

The Legal Aid Program is a cost-shared program that provides contribution funding to the provinces and territories for the delivery of legal aid services for economically disadvantaged persons. This federal-provincial/territorial collaboration on legal aid is based on the shared responsibility for criminal justice by the federal government, under its constitutional authority for criminal law-making and procedure, and by the provincial/territorial governments, under their constitutional authority for the administration of justice, including legal aid.

Legal aid promotes access to justice for economically disadvantaged persons, and helps to ensure that the Canadian justice system is fair, relevant and accessible and that public confidence in the justice system is maintained.

Note: Legal aid funding to the territories is provided through the consolidated access to justice services agreements.

Who is eligible?

As legal aid is a cost-shared program between the federal government and provincial/territorial governments, federal contribution funding for the delivery of legal aid services is provided directly to provincial and territorial governments.

Objectives

The Legal Aid Program promotes fair legal proceedings and helps to ensure access to justice for economically disadvantaged persons accused of serious and/or complex criminal offences and facing the likelihood of incarceration, and for youths charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, wherever they live in Canada. The Legal Aid Program also helps to ensure that Canada is able to cost-effectively meet its criminal legal aid responsibilities in federal prosecutions, such as under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and in Public Security and Anti-terrorism cases, as well as its responsibilities for immigration and refugee legal aid and the management of Court-Ordered Counsel in Federal Prosecutions.

Activities/Projects

The Legal Aid Program provides funding to the provinces, through its contribution agreements respecting criminal legal aid, and to the territories, through the consolidated access to justice services agreements, for:

  • the delivery of criminal legal aid services to:
    • young persons facing proceedings under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and
    • eligible, economically disadvantaged persons charged with serious and/or complex criminal offences and facing the likelihood of incarceration; proceedings pursuant to Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code; proceedings under the Extradition Act; and appeals by the Crown, or in certain cases, their own appeal;
  • the delivery of immigration and refugee legal aid services in the six provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador) that currently provide legal aid services to individuals involved in the immigration and refugee determination system under the provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act;
  • the delivery of Public Security and Anti-terrorism (PSAT) legal aid services to economically disadvantaged persons subject to terrorism prosecutions, Security Certificates issued under Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and proceedings under the Extradition Act where the commission of a terrorist act is alleged; and,
  • the management of Court-Ordered Counsel in Federal Prosecutions on behalf of the federal government, where the Attorney General of Canada is ordered by the court to provide funded defence counsel. When an individual is unable to obtain criminal legal aid, and the matter is complex with the potential for incarceration, the court may stay proceedings until the prosecuting Crown provides funded defence counsel. In federal prosecutions (e.g. Controlled Drugs and Substances Act or war crimes cases), the federal government is responsible for paying court-ordered counsel costs.

In addition to contributing toward the cost of legal aid in the provinces and territories, the Legal Aid Program provides secretariat support for the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Permanent Working Group on Legal Aid (PWG). The PWG is comprised of representatives of the federal, provincial and territorial governments and representatives from each provincial and territorial legal aid delivery agency, and reports directly to the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Deputy Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety. The PWG is a forum for national information sharing, research and joint policy development and discussions on matters of shared interest respecting legal aid, as well as for the negotiation of the federal contribution for legal aid.

Points to Consider

The federal government does not deliver legal aid services. Should you need assistance, please refer to the blue pages of your local telephone directory or consult the provincial and territorial legal aid services’ web pages listed below:

*The Nunavut Legal Services Board may be contacted as follows:

Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik
P.O. Box 29
Iqaluit NU X0A 0H0
General Line (toll free) 1-866-202-5593
Poverty Line (toll-free) 1-866-677-4726

Keewatin Legal Services Centre
P.O. Box 420
Rankin Inlet NU X0C 0G0
Family Line (toll-free) 1-866-606-9400

Kitikmeot Law Centre
P.O. Box 96
Cambridge Bay NU X0B 0C0
General Line (toll-free) 1-866-240-4006

Canada’s financial support to provinces and territories for the delivery of civil legal aid is primarily provided through the Canada Social Transfer which is the responsibility of the Department of Finance Canada.

Official Languages

In support of Section 41 of the Official Languages Act, the Department is committed to facilitate the participation of official language minority communities and their organizations in the development and assessment of the Department’s policies, programs and services having significant impact on the development of the communities; and to take measures to ensure that the Department of Justice’s programs and services reach official language minority communities.

As provinces and territories deliver legal aid services, they are responsible for ensuring that legal aid services are available in both official languages, when required.

Sustainable Development

Federal funding supports the capacity of provinces and territories to provide criminal and youth criminal justice legal aid, immigration and refugee legal aid and legal aid in Public Security and Anti-terrorism cases.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q - Will the Legal Aid Program cover my legal aid costs and who do I contact to get legal aid?
A - The Legal Aid Program does not provide funding directly to individuals for their legal aid expenses. Rather, federal funding is provided to provinces and territories for the delivery of legal aid services. Each province and territory provides a range of legal aid services according to its own policies and procedures. To find out if you are eligible to receive legal aid, you must contact the legal aid delivery agency in your province or territory. See the links provided below:

*The Nunavut Legal Services Board may be contacted as follows:

Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik
P.O. Box 29
Iqaluit NU X0A 0H0
General Line (toll free) 1-866-202-5593
Poverty Line (toll-free) 1-866-677-4726

Keewatin Legal Services Centre
P.O. Box 420
Rankin Inlet NU X0C 0G0
Family Line (toll-free) 1-866-606-9400

Kitikmeot Law Centre
P.O. Box 96
Cambridge Bay NU X0B 0C0
General Line (toll-free) 1-866-240-4006

Publications and Resources

For further information on available legal aid research reports, please consult the Department of Justice’s Reports and Publications web page.

Contact Information

For more detailed information on the mandate and activities of the Legal Aid Program, please contact:

Programs Branch
Department of Justice Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
CANADA
K1A 0H8
Telephone: 613 941-4193
Fax: 613 941-5446
E-mail: pb-dgp@justice.gc.ca

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