Legal Aid Eligibility and Coverage in Canada

Section 5 - Conclusion

It is very difficult to make any conclusive statements about how the plans affect equal access to justice for low income Canadians. Each plan is distinct, with its own rules and regulations for eligibility and coverage, and each applies them with some level of discretion. Ideally, one would want to examine case studies of how the plans apply their guidelines in order to be better able to evaluate how they operate and how their criteria affects low income Canadians. Unfortunately, this was not possible due to data constraints in this area.

Overall, while we cannot make any definitive statements about unmet needs, we can conclude the following:


Future Research

There are many areas that could be examined to better understand the unmet needs in the legal aid system. But first we need to understand how the plans work and how they treat particular cases. In order to do this, we need to be able to follow similar cases through the coverage restrictions and financial eligibility criteria established by each plan. It would, at the very least, permit us to examine the similarities and differences in a concrete way.

A second area of study that is essential is an examination of those who are denied legal aid, either because the case does not fall within the scope of the plan or because they do not qualify under the financial eligibility criteria. There is only anecdotal evidence of what happens to those who are denied coverage in criminal cases. This would allow further study into the court system and how the accused who are not represented are treated. It could also gather additional information on duty counsel and the impact of their services on low-income Canadians.