Legal Aid Eligibility and Coverage in Canada

Inventory of Legal Aid Plans in Canada (continued)

Inventory of Legal Aid Plans in Canada (continued)

Newfoundland and Labrador

The legal aid plan has operated in Newfoundland and Labrador since 1968, although there was no legislation in force. The Legal Aid Act (1975) established the Legal Aid Commission as the body responsible for Legal Aid services. The Act sets out general provisions for coverage, eligibility procedures, applications and their grounds for refusal.

The area directors (appointed by the Commission) determine if and how much applicants can afford to contribute to the cost of their legal aid. They issue certificates for the provision of legal services by either staff lawyers or lawyers in private practice.

Financial Eligibility

The Act does not prescribe cut-offs, general financial guidelines are outlined in the Regulations. These guidelines, including those related to the contribution to the cost of the service, are flexible. Those receiving social assistance automatically qualify for legal aid. They also qualify if they cannot pay for a lawyer without having to dispose of any assets necessary to maintain their livelihood or without impairing their ability to keep themselves and their dependents fed, clothed, sheltered and living as a family, or they are without funds and require immediate legal assistance to preserve their rights.

Eligibility can also be based on:

These guidelines are considered to be minimum living expenses under what is termed a "basic living allowance." These expenses include the costs for food, clothing household supplies and personal requirements. But, other expenses also taken into consideration are:

Income Guidelines [17]
Family Size Net Monthly Income ($)** Net Yearly Income ($)
One adult 393 4,716
and 1 dependent 484 5,808
and 2 dependents 527 6,324
and 3 dependents 567 6,804
and 4 dependents 608 7,296
and 5 dependents 653 7,836
and 6 dependents 697 8,364
Two adults 541 6,492
and 1 dependent 580 6,960
and 2 dependents 618 7,416
and 3 dependents 660 7,920
and 4 dependents 697 8,364
and 5 dependents 751 9,012
and 6 dependents 807 9,684
863 10,356

** Net monthly income: Gross income less CPP, UI, Income Tax, Group Insurance and Pension.

Expanded Eligibility through Contribution


Income Definition

Newfoundland and Labrador uses net yearly income defined as gross income less CPP, UI (EI), income tax and group insurance and pension. In essence, they are examining "take home" pay.

Family Definition

Family type and size. The term "dependents" can imply children or any other person that the applicant supports.

Assets Test

The assets test is conducted on a case-by-case basis, and it includes anything that can be readily converted into cash. It does not include real property, a mortgage or the cash value of a life insurance policy. But, it does include assets that are not considered "modest."

Client Contribution

They do not have a fixed amount that the applicant must contribute; rather, it is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. It is left to the area director to determine whether an applicant can pay part of the cost of legal aid applied for. If the applicant cannot pay at the onset of the case, there is a written agreement for payment drawn up before the certificate is issued.

Substantive Coverage

Legal Aid provides representation to all financially eligible persons charged with federal indictable offences. Adults charged with summary conviction offences under federal legislation are covered if the conviction is likely to result in a jail term or loss of means of livelihood. Limited coverage is provided for provincial offences.

The area director cannot authorize legal aid in respect to a summary conviction offence unless he or she is of the opinion that:

Criminal Appeals

Appeals in criminal charges are covered if the case has merit or the Crown requests one. Appeals on youth matters are covered under the same conditions as for adults.

Review of Coverage and Eligibility

An applicant refused legal aid can appeal to the Provincial Director and then to an appeal board. The applicant has 14 days from the time he or she receives the notification.

Duty Counsel

Duty counsel services are available in most of the criminal and youth courts. The individual does not have to be financially eligible to receive services from a duty counsel officer. The individual has a right to be advised of his/her rights and duty counsel may also represent the person if asking for an adjournment or for entering a guilty plea. The duty counsel may also assist during sentencing.

Administration Fee

There are no fees.

Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Legal Aid in Canada: Description of Operations. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, March 1999. Cat. No. 85-217-XIB.
Legal Aid Act. ChapterL-11. Amend, 1997.
Consolidated Newfoundland Regulation 1010/96: Legal Aid Regulations under the Legal Aid Act.
Personal communication with the Newman Petten, Area Director.

Most jurisdictions go through a similar process of screening clients. There is both a substantive and a financial test that applicants must undergo. The substantive test examines whether a particular case is covered by the legal aid plan. If the case is not covered, the application is denied. The second test is based on financial need. The legal aid plans have established financial eligibility criteria based primarily on income, assets and family size or type. Applicants must meet these criteria in order to receive legal aid. The next two sections focus on restrictions in legal aid coverage and the financial eligibility criteria in each jurisdiction.

[17] These have been effective since 1999, but please note that they are in the process of reviewing their guidelines.