Low-income families in Canada have access to free lawyer services thanks to provincial agencies and non-government organizations such as Legal Aid Ontario, Canadian Centre for Men and Families, and Pro-Bono Students Canada.
Canadian Centre for Men and Families
The centre runs a Legal Assistance Clinic to offer free services and advice to men in areas such as employment, human rights, criminal, and family law. Among the many programs that the centre offers are Anger Management, Fathering After Separation or Divorce, and the Survivors of False Allegations Support Program.
Legal Aid Ontario
A provincial agency, Legal Aid Ontario offers legal assistance to low-income families and individuals across different fields, including clinic, mental health, criminal, refugee and immigration, and family law. Financially-eligible residents benefit from referrals and information, representation by a private lawyer, and courthouse services such as paralegals and duty counsel. A toll-free phone line is also available to help persons who need advice in the area of family law. Free legal assistance is offered in both French and English. To apply for assistance, clients are asked to submit proof of income such as their employment insurance statements, social assistance cheque stubs, or recent pay stubs. They also need to present documents on their case.
Legal Aid Ontario offers free services to individuals who have a resolution meeting, need assistance with a guilty plea, wish to delay their court date, or need advice on the court process or their rights. The agency runs 59 general legal clinics as well, offering help with:
- Employment issues
- Guaranteed Income Supplement
- Old Age Security
- Canada Pension Plan
- Social housing
- Landlord and tenant disputes
- Ontario Disability Support Program
- Ontario Works
The clinics also offer representation to persons belonging to vulnerable groups such as people living with HIV/AIDS and seniors.
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Legal Aid Alberta
As a non-profit, publicly funded organization in Alberta, LAA offers services in the fields of adult and youth family defense, immigration, child welfare, domestic violence, and family law. Lawyers provide assistance and advice to individuals who attended Provincial Court, Queen’s Bench Family Docket Court, or mediation. Support is also offered to persons who deal with issues such as divorce, spousal support, property actions, guardianship, and parenting. In addition, the organization helps victims of family violence to obtain an emergency protection order against a violent spouse, children, parents, or other family members. Persons charged with a crime are also offered legal assistance to help explain their charges, run a bail hearing, or set a trial date.
Pro Bono Students Canada
PBSC is a nation-wide organization that offers free assistance to individuals and organizations. Established in 1996, the organization provides assistance to persons who wish to submit a human rights complaint, draft a will, change their name, etc.
Other organizations and agencies that offer support to low-income persons and families across Canada are Commission des services juridiques in Quebec, the Northwest Territories Legal Aid Commission, and the Legal Services Society in British Columbia. Non-Canadians may also qualify for assistance in case they are without a status, are on a temporary resident permit or visa, or are a visitor.
Persons who do not qualify on an income basis still have access to support in the form of referrals to different agencies, legal clinics, and duty counsel.