Established in 1998 through the Legal Aid Services Act and successor to the Ontario Legal Aid Plan (OLAP), Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is a publicly funded and publicly accountable non-profit corporation, responsible for administering the legal aid program in the province of Ontario. Through a toll-free number and multiple in-person locations such as courthouse offices, duty counsel and community clinics, the organization provides legal assistance to a million low-income Ontario residents each year.
Legal issues that are covered by Legal Aid Ontario include matters involving domestic violence, family law, child custody, refugee and immigration hearings, and poverty law. Legal Aid Ontario also provides assistance in criminal cases where the accused faces a substantial likelihood of incarceration. As many offences are considered hybrid, that being the courts may decide to prosecute as either a summary or indictable offence, legal aid applicants are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
A major component of Legal Aid Ontario’s services are provided through the 77 community clinics (62 community clinics, 15 specialty clinics) and 6 Student Legal Aid Services Societies located throughout the province. Funded by Legal Aid Ontario, these organizations provide legal advice, and in some cases representation, primarily for civil law matters.
Legal Aid Ontario may be able to help low income individuals and disadvantaged communities for a variety of legal problems, including criminal matters, family disputes, immigration and refugee hearings and poverty law issues such as landlord/tenant disputes, disability support and family benefits payments.
LAO offers different kinds of services, depending on the client’s needs. They may be able to provide assistance in retaining a lawyer if applicants meet eligibility requirements. Legal assistance is also available through the community legal clinic program.
Every Ontario resident who needs legal assistance can apply. Eligibility for legal aid is based on financial need and the type of case. The applicant may pay nothing or a portion of the cost of legal aid, depending on their financial situation.
In the Public Appointments Secretariat website there is the Legal Aid Ontario’s profile. Here is some extraction from it:
- “Ministry: Attorney General
- Agency: Legal Aid Ontario
- Agency URL: www.legalaid.on.ca
- Function: The objects of the corporation are, to establish and administer a cost-effective and efficient system for providing high quality legal aid services to low-income individuals in Ontario; to establish policies and priorities for the provision of legal aid services based on its financial resources; to facilitate co-ordination among the different methods by which legal aid services are provided; to monitor and supervise legal aid services provided by clinics and other entities funded by the corporation; to co-ordinate services with other aspects of the justice system and with community services; and to advise the Attorney General on all aspects of legal aid services in Ontario, including any features of the justice system that affect or may affect the demand for or quality of legal aid services. The affairs of the corporation are governed and managed by its board of directors.”
When you need a lawyer to go to court with you, for criminal, family, immigration, refugee and some types of civil cases, Legal Aid Ontario offices may be able to give you a certificate that will allow you to hire your own lawyer.
When you need help with housing, income or employment issues, you may be able to get advice or representation from a community legal clinic.
When you are in court and do not have your own lawyer with you, in criminal and family matters, you may be able to get assistance from a duty counsel lawyer.
If you need advice or assistance, but do not qualify for a legal aid certificate, you may be able to get some help from the Advice Lawyer service.
Parties with a small income, or who are receiving social assistance may qualify for legal aid. Legal aid can help pay for some or all of parties’ legal costs. Visit Legal Aid Ontario’s website (http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/) for a list of addresses of legal aid offices and clinics throughout the province. The numbers for local legal aid offices are also available in the white pages of telephone books under “Legal Aid”.
Community Legal Clinics
Community legal clinics are independent, non-profit organizations that are governed by locally elected Boards of Directors, and receive funding from Legal Aid Ontario.
Community legal clinics provide representation, public legal education, law reform and community development services to low-income individuals and groups within a defined geographical area. Social assistance and housing law are two key areas that clinics focus on. Clinics also provide services in other areas of law, depending on their local community needs.
Clinics also play a large role in the provision of workshops and information sessions and the undertaking of law reform initiatives. Many clinics also publish brochures, booklets, pamphlets and fact sheets for the benefit of the general public.
To find the legal clinic that handles your community, visit the Getting Legal Help section of the LAO website at http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/contact/contact.asp?type=cl and enter your postal code in the Community legal clinic search box.
You can also call Legal Aid Ontario toll-free at 1-800-668-8258 or 416-979-1446 to speak to a representative.
Community legal clinics provide services to address the unique legal needs of low-income people and communities. The local board tries to match its services to meet the priority needs of the community it serves. Although no two clinics are exactly alike, the types of issues they may provide help with include:
- Tenant Rights
- Ontario Works and Welfare
- Ontario Disability Support Program
- Government Pensions
- Employment Insurance
- Workplace Safety and Insurance
- Workers’ Compensation
- Employment Rights
- Criminal Injuries Compensation
- Human Rights
Lawyers and legal workers provide information, legal advice, and represent people. In addition, clinics also can engage in test cases, public legal education, community organizing, and other law reform initiatives. Most community legal clinics are located in specific geographic communities, and each community in Ontario is now served by a clinic. The complete list of Ontario’s community legal clinics you can find at the following link:
- represent specific individuals (e.g., seniors, people living with HIV/AIDS)
- deal with specific area of law
- service clients throughout Ontario.
Some clinics also specialize in areas of law for low-income clients who are marginalized for other reasons.
|Toronto||ARCH Disability Law Centre||425 Bloor St. East, Suite 110, Toronto ON M4W 3R5||Telephone:416-482-8255, Fax:416-482-2981, TTY:416-482-1254|
|Toronto||Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto||415 Yonge St., Suite 803, Toronto ON M5B 2E7||Telephone:416-408-3967, Fax:416-408-4268|
|Toronto||Advocacy Centre for the Elderly||2 Carlton St., Suite 701, Toronto ON M5B 1J3||Telephone:416-598-2656, Fax:416-598-7924|
|Toronto||African Canadian Legal Clinic||111 Richmond St., Suite 503, Toronto ON M5H 2G4||Telephone:416-214-4747, Fax:416-214-4748|
|Toronto||Canadian Environmental Law Association||130 Spadina Ave., Suite 301, Toronto ON M5V 2L4||Telephone:416-960-2284, Fax:416-960-9392|
|Toronto||Income Security Advocacy Centre||425 Adelaide St West, 5th Flr, Toronto ON M5V 3C1||Telephone:416-579-5820, Toll Free:1-866-245-4072, Fax:416-579-5821|
|Toronto||Centre for Spanish-Speaking Peoples||2141 Jane St., 2nd Flr, Toronto ON M3M 1A2||Telephone:416-533-0680, Telephone:416-533-8545, Fax:416-533- 5731|
|Toronto||Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario||425 Adelaide St. West, 5th Flr, Toronto ON M5V 3C1||Telephone:416-597-5855, Fax:416-597-5821|
|Toronto||Community Legal Education Ontario||119 Spadina Ave., Suite 600, Toronto ON M5V 2L1||Telephone:416-408-4420, Fax:416-408-4424|
|Toronto||HIV and AIDS Legal Clinic ON||65 Wellesley St. East, Suite 400. Toronto ON M4Y 1G7||Telephone:416-340-7790, Toll Free:1-888-705-8889, Fax:416-340-7248, TTY: 416-922-2352 or 1-866-513-9883|
|Toronto||Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario||489 College St., Suite 203, Toronto ON M6G 1A5||Telephone:416-924-6477, Toll Free:1-877-230-6311, Fax:416-924-2472|
|Toronto||Injured Workers’ Consultants||815 Danforth Ave., Suite 411, Toronto ON M4J 1L2||Telephone:416-461-2411, Fax:416-461-7138|
|Toronto||Justice for Children and Youth||415 Yonge St., Suite 1203, Toronto ON M5B 2E7||Telephone:416-920-1633, Fax:416-920-5855|
|Toronto||Landlord’s Self-Help Centre||425 Adelaide St. West, 4th Flr, Toronto ON M5V 3C1||Telephone:416-504-5190, Toll Free:1-800-730-3218, Fax:416-504-1932|
|Toronto||Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic||180 Dundas St. East, Suite 504, Toronto ON M5G 1Z8||Telephone:416-971-9674, Fax:416-971-6780|
|Toronto||Toronto Workers’ Health & Safety Legal Clinic||180 Dundas St. West, Suite 2000, P.O.B.4, Toronto ON M5G 1Z8||Telephone:416-971-8832, Fax:416-971-8834|
These clinics are resources for other clinics, private bar lawyers, MPPs and community agencies. You can call Legal Aid Ontario toll-free at 1-800-668-8258 or 416-979-1446 to speak to a representative who will refer you to the appropriate resource to meet your needs.
Student Legal Aid Services Societies
Student Legal Aid Services Societies (SLASS) clinics are designed to provide law students with practical legal training and experience. Staffed by law students under the supervision of lawyers, SLASS clinics provide legal advice and representation on matters such as criminal law, tenant issues, employee’s rights and small claims court. SLASS clinics also typically provide free legal assistance for students enrolled at the university and in some cases, assistance for students attending a local college. SLASS operates out of the six law schools in Ontario:
- Queens University
- University of Ottawa
- University of Toronto
- University of Western
- University of Windsor
- York University