Area of Law: Legal Aid
Answer # 847
What kinds of cases are covered by legal aid?Region: Ontario Answer # 847
If a person qualifies financially, the types of cases that may be covered by Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) include: certain criminal charges, issues regarding family law matters (including domestic violence), immigration and refugee matters, landlord and tenant matters, and some civil cases and final appeals.
Criminal charges (including those involving youth)
Legal aid covers the defence of criminal charges that would likely result in jail time, such as assault, impaired driving causing bodily harm, robbery, welfare fraud, and break and enter. Legal aid also covers offences which will cause someone to lose their job immediately, be rejected from a planned educational program or be deported from the country, if there is a reasonable defence against the charge. Legal aid may also cover the cost of your lawyer if you are between 12 and 17 years old, and you have been charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Legal aid will also help those who are experiencing domestic violence and require a lawyer’s help in Family Court. Family Court matters that may qualify for legal aid include: getting or changing custody of children; setting up, increasing or decreasing child or spousal support payments; help if a partner denies access to children; getting access to see children or to make a major change to access arrangements that have already been made; stopping a partner from selling or destroying the other partner’s property; and negotiating ownership of things like RRSPs or pensions that could provide income.
Domestic violence services
LAO also has special family law services to help individuals experiencing domestic violence. A free emergency two-hour consultation is available, regardless of the person’s immigration status in Canada.
Immigration and refugee matters
Immigration and refugee matters that may qualify for legal aid include: refugee hearings before the Immigration and Refugee Board; sponsorship and deportation appeals; and detention reviews.
Landlord and tenant matters
Lawyers and legal workers are available at community legal clinics to provide information and legal advice on housing issues for people with low incomes. Tenant duty counsel are also available at most Landlord and Tenant Board locations to provide advice and help, including assistance at reviews and eviction hearings.
Civil cases and final appeals – Legal Clinics
Although not directly available through LAO, help with certain civil cases and final appeals is provided by community legal clinics. Community legal clinics are non-profit, independently run legal centres, funded by LAO. They cover cases such as:
- Workplace Safety and Insurance matters
- Employment Insurance appeals
- Appeals to various administrative boards and tribunals, such as the Landlord and Tenant Board
- Social benefits matters
- CPP matters
- Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (OSPD) matters
- Insurance claims for long-term care
- Wills or Estates matters
- Powers of Attorney (financial or personal care) issues
Mental health cases
If you have been admitted to, or are receiving treatment from a mental health care facility, for legal help with a mental health hearing or appeal you should first speak with the patient advocate or rights advisor at the facility. They can advise you of your legal rights and provide help with finding a lawyer, if you need one. Patient advocates or rights advisors can also assist with legal aid applications.
If you appear in mental health court on a criminal matter, and you do not have a lawyer and it is your first appearance, you will usually be assisted by Duty Counsel. For any subsequent appearances, lawyers or Duty Counsel can request financial assistance from LAO on your behalf, if you are not able to apply on your own. If you qualify, LAO will help you find a lawyer to take your case.
To find out if you qualify for legal aid, for the most up-to-date information on LAO services, or to find your nearest community legal clinic, visit Legal Aid Ontario.
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