Legal Aid Eligibility and Coverage in Canada

A Look at Young Adults, Aged 18 to 35 Years

A Look at Young Adults, Aged 18 to 35 Years [54]

It was felt that further analysis examining gender and age would help develop a clearer sense of the incidence of poverty among what the Department of Justice Canada considers to be a target group, that is, those between the ages of 18 and 35 years. This section examines the proportion and number of individuals that could qualify for legal aid, given the financial eligibility criteria (the income portion). (Please refer to Tables 6-1 to 6-9 for the data).

The methodology is similar to that of the section that examines families. To calculate these numbers, we use Statistics Canada's Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) 1998 public use microdata files. It should be noted that the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics microdata (person files) is limited to those aged 16 years and older. In this case, the unit of analysis are individuals between the ages of 18 and 35. The legal aid plans use family size and family income in their guidelines, our analysis takes this into consideration. It should be noted that 18- to 35-year-olds make up 32.9% of the adult population. When one further breaks down the analysis by province and gender, the number and proportion become quite small. In many cases, these numbers are below Statistics Canada's releasability guidelines. Therefore, for some provinces, there are no breakdowns by gender or by family size.

British Columbia

In table 6-1, we see that overall, 111,600 persons aged 18-35 in British Columbia would be eligible for legal aid. There are some 142,600 poor[55] 18- to 35-year-olds in British Columbia and of those, 72.9% would be eligible for legal aid.

There is a difference between males and females below the after-tax LICO that would be eligible for legal aid under the criteria. Approximately 78% of low-income men, compared to 70% of women, would be eligible.

The proportion of unattached individuals, below the after-tax LICO, that are eligible is 77.7%. For individuals in families with two or more people, that proportion drops to 68.5%. A higher proportion of unattached individuals would meet the eligibility criteria.


Using the gross income category, we find that 112,300 Albertans aged 18 to 35 years would qualify under the income component of the eligibility test. Of those who are poor[56], 71.3% would qualify and a small proportion of those who are above the LICO would also qualify.[57] There is almost no difference in the proportion who would qualify between poor men and women, at 71.9% and 70.8% respectively.

Under the extended coverage, some 198,600 Albertans, or 25.1% of those aged 18 to 35 years, would be eligible for legal aid. Of those below the LICO, almost 99% would be eligible. Almost all men and women and all family sizes (100% of unattached individuals and 97.1% of individuals in families with two or more people) would be eligible. Like our analysis of families, it is probably a small percentage of those in larger families that may not be covered.


In table 6-3, we observe that 8.6% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 years would be eligible to receive legal aid. No individuals above the LICO[58] would qualify. Fifty-seven percent of poor individuals would meet the income guidelines for legal aid.

Sixty-three percent of men below the LICO would meet the criteria compared to 53% of women. Seventy-two percent of poor unattached individuals would be eligible compared to 38% of those individuals living in families.

In total, 20,300 low-income persons aged 18 to 35 years would be eligible, while 15,100 would not.


Under the full eligibility criteria, 43,800 young Manitobans (15.8%) would be eligible for legal aid. This proportion increases when one examines the expanded eligibility guidelines. Here we find that 27% of all 18- to 35-year-olds would be eligible (encompassing both the poor and those considered "near poor"). Almost 98% of low-income persons would meet the expanded eligibility criteria. When one examines the full eligibility criteria, 70% (43,191 individuals) of low-income young adults would be eligible for free legal aid.

There is almost no difference between the proportion of low-income young men and women, aged 18 to 35, who would access free legal aid. The same relationship exists between men and women meeting the expanded eligibility criteria.

Sixty-seven percent of unattached individuals would receive free legal aid. The proportion increases slightly for those in families with two or more people at 72%. The proportion of unattached individuals meeting the criteria for free legal aid is 100% and drops ever so slightly to 96.4% for those in families.

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