Study of the Legal Services Provided to Penitentiary Inmates by Legal Aid Plans and Clinics in Canada

Appendix C: Legal Aid Plan Coverage by Province

Table 1: Legal Aid Plan coverage
  British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba
Method of service delivery to general public

Mixed judicare, staff system.

Structure and services:

Staff offices and community law offices supplement services provided through the private bar. 44 offices throughout BC (branches, community law offices, Native law offices). Use of lawyers and paralegals. Community and Native law offices are independent of LSS.

Duty counsel: available in most criminal courts. Some duty counsel for apprehension of children cases. Not generally available in family court. Pre-court duty counsel for those in detention.

Special services: Judicial Appeals, Native services, prisoners services, legal information services.

Policies and procedures:


Coverage of both criminal and civil matters.

Applications assessed by Area Director re: eligibility. (14 communities).

Criminal: Likelihood of imprisonment, loss of livelihood, deportation.

When an offence has a mandatory prison term, person must select private bar lawyer.

Victims and witnesses named in disclosure are covered if they need legal representation (in situations where counsel wants to see their personal records - counselling for example).

Immigration issues covered.


Financial and type of case.

Repayments agreements for all or part of legal aid costs are possible.

Primarily judicare services.

Structure and services:

Legal aid is provided through the Legal Aid Society of Alberta, under agreement with the Alberta Government and the Law Society of Alberta.

No legal aid legislation.

Provincial Office and 11 regional offices under the Northern and Southern Directors. Each regional office serves additional circuit points.

Criminal Duty Counsel program in all locations (56). Duty counsel services in Edmonton and Calgary are provided through staff lawyers.

Coverage is predominantly through judicare via certificate. Clients choose lawyer or Plan has a rotating roster. Two offices have staff lawyer.

Policies and procedures:


Financial eligibility; federal indictable offences; summary offences where conviction is likely to lead to imprisonment or loss of livelihood. Crown-initiated appeals of decisions in indictable matters mean automatic coverage for financially eligible. Accused-initiated appeals: coverage based on merit.

Family and civil law: financial eligibility; case must be within jurisdiction of court, have merit or likelihood of success.

Repayment agreements required if applicant's income falls within contribution range.

Operates on staff-based model.

Structure and services:

Central office and 13 area offices.

Commission reports to Minister of Justice.

Pilot project duty counsel in Regina and Saskatoon.

Brydges services through contract with private lawyer.

No specialized programming.

Policies and procedures:


Services provided in all matters only if case has merit.

Criminal: All indictable charges; summary only if likelihood of imprisonment or loss of livelihood; coverage for all Crown-initiated appeals; coverage of other appeals if merit.

Civil: Family matters: divorce, custody, access, child protection, maintenance, restraining orders, adoption. Appeals on family law matters are covered if the applicant remains financially eligible and there is professional merit to the appeal.


If on social assistance, if financial resources equal to or less than what would be on social assistance, if private counsel would reduce financial resources to level of social assistance; if not receiving social assistance, may be asked to provide some of the costs.

Structure and services:

Staff, duty counsel, private bar.

Duty counsel services for criminal and civil matters provided by both staff and private bar.

Staff lawyers provide legal advice and representation to individuals and organizations serving low-income people at community law offices; provide services to prisoners in penitentiaries through these offices.

Other specialized offices, including Aboriginal Law Centre.

Policies and procedures:


Criminal: Indictable offences; summary; provincial only if likelihood of imprisonment or loss of livelihood; appeals by Crown covered, appeals by person only if case has merit and accused received prison term.

Family law: Cost-benefit analysis first, then if case has merit. Divorce, custody, access, child protection, restraining orders, maintenance and adoption, amicus services for children at request of court.

Other civil matters: Limited coverage if case has merit - motor vehicle, property, landlord-tenant, workers compensation, damage actions, wrongful dismissal, personal injury, social assistance, unemployment insurance. Refugee groups can get legal aid: matter stems from common concern, matter of public interest.


Family income and family size under guidelines; considers both people's incomes/assets where spouse defined as two people living together in relationship of mutual financial support and dependency, regardless of the marital status. If person does not meet financial standards, can still obtain legal aid if retaining lawyer would mean having to dispose of principal residence or assets required to live. $25 application fee for processing although some people will be exempted (social assistance). Where indicated, Legal Aid will provide service to those slightly above financial guidelines, with some or all repayment.