Access to Justice Services Agreements (AJA)
The Access to Justice Services Agreements (AJA) are funding arrangements between the federal government and Canada’s three territories (Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.) They are the means by which the Government of Canada financially supports the delivery of access to justice services in northern communities, including: legal aid (both criminal and civil), Indigenous courtwork services and public legal education and information.
At the request of the territories in 1997, federal funding was consolidated under a single AJA agreement replacing individual agreements for each of the three program areas. The agreements recognise the respective responsibilities of the federal and territorial governments in the administration of justice and the provision of justice services. The agreement provides financial, administrative and program flexibility for access to justice services, recognizing the distinct service delivery challenges that exist in the north. AJAs have been in place in the Northwest Territories and Yukon since 1997 and in Nunavut since its creation in 1999.
Who is eligible?
Federal Access to Justice Services funding is only available to territorial governments.
Eligibility for access to justice services is determined by the Territory in accordance with the applicable territorial legislation, the policies of the territorial access-to-justice services delivery entity and the provisions of the Access to Justice Services Agreements. Please contact your territorial government for more information on how to access legal aid or Indigenous Courtwork services. A contact list is provided below.
- The overall goal of the Access to Justice Services Agreements (AJA) is to support the delivery of access to justice services (legal aid, Indigenous courtwork, and public legal education and information) in Canada’s three territories: Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
- These consolidated federal-territorial funding arrangements recognize the distinct service delivery challenges that exist in Canada’s northern and remote regions, including: language barriers; a lack of communications infrastructure; and limited access to private bar lawyers where in many northern and remote communities, legal aid lawyers are the only source of legal support. Meeting these challenges is complicated by geography as many communities in the territories are only accessible by air.
- The objectives of the AJAs are to:
- Consolidate federal contribution funding for territorial legal aid (criminal and civil), Indigenous courtwork services and public legal education and information under one agreement;
- Support the territories in delivering access to justice services aligned to population needs and territorial delivery circumstances;
- Provide financial, administrative and program flexibility in the delivery of access to justice services, recognizing the unique circumstances of the North;
- Implement financial reporting and accountability requirements appropriate and reflective of territorial justice administration and service delivery models; and
- Support the responsibilities of the federal and territorial governments in maintaining minimum levels of service.
The AJA agreements provide funding support to each territory for the delivery of access to justice-related services in the areas of:
- Legal aid (both criminal and civil);
- Indigenous courtwork; and
- Public legal education and information.
Legal Aid Component
The Access to Justice Services agreements support the delivery of criminal and civil legal aid in the territories. In the context of the AJAs, criminal legal aid 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.
NOTE: In the territories, legal aid funding is one of the program components within the AJAs. Federal funding for legal aid is provided to the provinces by way of a separate program called the Legal Aid Program.
Indigenous Courtwork Services Component
The purpose of the Indigenous Courtwork component is to help Indigenous people in conflict with the criminal justice system obtain fair, equitable, culturally-sensitive treatment. The objectives of the component are:
- To assist Indigenous people to understand their right to speak on their own behalf or to request legal counsel; and, to better understand the nature of the charges against them and the philosophy and functioning of the criminal justice system;
- To assist those involved in the administration of the criminal justice system become aware and appreciate the values, customs, languages and socio-economic conditions of Indigenous people; and
- To respond to problems and special needs caused by communication barriers between Indigenous people and those who are involved in the administration of the criminal justice system.
NOTE: In the territories, Indigenous courtwork services funding is one of the program components within the AJAs. Federal funding for Indigenous Courtwork services is provided in the provinces by way of a separate program called the Indigenous Courtwork Program.
Public Legal Education and Information (PLEI) Component
In the context of the Access to Justice Services agreements, PLEI refers to an activity that seeks in a systematic way to provide people with the opportunity to obtain information about the law and the justice system in a form that is timely and appropriate to their needs.
NOTE: In the territories, public legal education and information funding is one of the program components within the AJAs. Federal funding for provincial public legal education and information organisations is provided by way of a separate program called the Justice Partnership and Innovation Program.
Points to Consider
Through the Access to Justice Services Agreements, the Government of Canada provides funding to territorial governments for access to justice services. The federal government does not offer access to justice services directly to individuals. Should you need assistance, please refer to the blue pages of your local telephone directory or consult the list of territorial access to justice services below.
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.
The Department of Justice encourages you to submit all documents electronically. If you submit documentation on paper, please consider printing on both sides of the paper. These actions will minimize environmental impacts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1 Where can I get more information on legal aid, Indigenous courtwork services and public legal education and information in my territory?
A1 Contact Information for Territorial Access to Justice Services
- Yukon Legal Services Society – Legal Aid
- Yukon Department of Justice – Aboriginal Court Workers Community Justice Coordinator
- Council of Yukon First Nations – Justice programs
Northwest Territories / Territoires du Nord-Ouest:
- Q2 Will the federal Legal Aid Program cover my legal aid costs and who do I contact to get legal aid?
- A2 Federal funding for legal aid is not provided directly to individuals for their legal aid expenses. Rather, federal funding is provided to provinces and territories to support 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. Contact information for territorial legal aid plans is found above.
- Q3 How can a Courtworker help me in Court?
- A3 A courtworker can help you to request legal counsel and to prepare to appear before the court. They can go to court with you (except where not authorized). They can also give you information about the court procedures; explain any directions given by the court; provide cultural interpretation; and, help you to speak with court officials.
- Courtworkers can also help you to access, interpret and prepare documents and conditions given by the court. They can provide information on the nature of the charges against you and explain your rights, roles and responsibilities. They can explain alternative/restorative justice options, provide emotional support and help you to find appropriate resources, services and contacts. If you would like to access Courtworkers services, you should contact the territorial delivery agency listed above.
- Q4 How can I become a Courtworker?
- A4 The federal government does not hire courtworkers. If you are interested in becoming a courtworker, you should contact the territorial delivery agency listed above.
Publications and Resources
This report presents information on the operation of Canada’s 13 legal aid delivery agencies. The report includes information on the legal aid delivery agencies, personnel resources, revenues and expenditures, as well as information concerning applications for legal aid. It presents a broad analytical overview of legal aid in Canada and provides data tables and figures at both the provincial/territorial and national levels. Most of the information for the report is based on data collected from the Legal Aid Survey, conducted annually by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
For further information on available legal aid research reports, please consult the Department of Justice’s Reports and Publications web page.
For further information, please contact:
Access to Justice Services Agreements
Programs Branch, Department of Justice Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8
Or electronically to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or by phone at: (613) 941-4193
Or by fax to: (613) 941-5446
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