Legal Aid Services and the YCJA

A brief history of L.A.O.
 Ontario first implemented an organized legal aid plan for criminal cases in 1951.
Lawyers provided legal assistance on a volunteer basis.
 In 1967, the Legal Aid Act was enacted creating the Ontario Legal Aid Plan. The
plan was financed by the provincial government and managed by Law Society
of Upper Canada and saw the creation of the Certificate and Duty Counsel
 1970-1980s – OLAP is expanded upon to include certificate coverage for more
areas of law. This time also saw the creation of community legal clinics.
 1990s – The demand for legal assistance continues to grow, especially during
the recession. The government was forced to cap spending in 1992. This forced
a dramatic reduction of certificate services. The emphasis shifted towards
alternative service delivery models such as the use of staff lawyers, duty
counsel and Student Legal Aid Services Societies.
A brief history of L.A.O. cont’
 By mid-1990s the recession and spending freeze continues to impact the
quantity of certificates issued. In direct response to the public demand and
recommendations provided from a report on Legal Aid Services the
Government establishes the Legal Aid Services Act.
 Established by the Legal Aid Services Act, 1998 Legal Aid Ontario is an
independent but publically funded and publically accountable non-profit
corporation, responsible for administering the province’s legal aid program.
 LAO would become the sole agency for establishing, administering, and
monitoring the legal aid system within the province, and was granted the
ability to “provide legal aid services by any method that it considers
appropriate, having regard to the needs of low-income individuals and the
costs of providing such services and the Corporation’s financial resources
Legal Aid Ontario – Today
 Since 1998, LAO has become the 2nd largest justice agency in Ontario
and one of the largest providers of legal services in North America.
 LAO provides assistance for a range of legal issues such as criminal, family, mental health,
aboriginal, clinic (poverty), and refugee law matters and can provide referrals for
individuals seeking help outside of LAO’s jurisdiction.
 Services include the Certificate program, Duty Counsel program, Specialty Legal Clinics,
Student Legal Clinics, and Community Clinics
 Financial testing may be required to determine
eligibility for some duty counsel services
 Two requirements – Legal & financial eligibility
Duty Counsel Program
 Duty Counsel Services include:
 Give advice about legal rights, obligations and the court
 Assist with resolution (diversion matters & guilty pleas)
 Assist with bail hearings
 Crown resolution meetings (CPTs)
 Judicial pre-trials (JPTs)
 Preliminary stages of Mental Health Fitness
 Adjournments
Duty Counsel Program
Certificate Program
 Two requirements – Legal & financial eligibility
Certificate Program:
Legal Eligibility
 Youths applying for legal aid services must be seen by duty counsel
prior to making an application for certificate services
 To be eligible for a certificate youths require a duty counsel referral
(purple form)
 Factors considered by duty counsel in determining legal eligibility are:
Details of the case
Probability of incarceration
 All matters are considered on a case by case basis to ensure the most
appropriate/efficient service is provided to the client at the particular
Certificate Program:
Financial Eligibility
 Eligibility for a young person is based on the same financial
eligibility criteria as any other applicant
 If a young person is residing at home their parents are required
to be financially assessed
 If the parents or guardians refuse to be financially assessed then the
application will be refused.
 If the applicant is no longer living at home, is detained following a
bail hearing or has withdrawn from parental control, the young
person is assessed as an individual and financial eligibility is
determined based on the young persons circumstances.
Guideline for income eligibility
I’ve been approved… now what?
 Youths should contact a member of the private bar.
 Youths can be provided with a list of lawyers
 Legal Aid Ontario does not provide any
recommendations to a client regarding their choice of
 LRS – Lawyer referral service available when client’s are
unsure of who to pick
“I’ve been refused… now what?”
 Youths who have been refused can:
Represent yourself
Retain counsel privately
Speak with duty counsel regarding their options
(Youths should provide their refusal to duty counsel)
 Everyone who receives a refusal has a right of appeal.
The appeal must be made in writing within 15 days of
the eligibility decision.
YCJA and Legal Assistance
 When Legal Aid Ontario refuses certificate services for a
young person YCJA allows for specific provisions to
assist the youth in retaining counsel.
YCJA – S.25
 S.25 – Right to Counsel
 S.25(8) – If it appears to a youth court judge or justice…
that it would be in the best interests of the young person
to be represented by his or her own counsel, the judge or
justice shall ensure that the young person is represented
by counsel independent of the parent
 A youth should speak with duty counsel about this
 A young person appearing in court may receive legal
assistance from:
• Duty Counsel
• Legal Aid Certificate services
• S.25 Appointments
Going Forward
 Financial Constraints
 Matching the most appropriate/efficient service for the
client to resolve the matter
 Increasing capacity of duty counsel
 Better information systems to track clients and outcomes
 Expanding scope with professional development
 Teamwork
 Reworking procedures to expand capacity
 Working with key communities:
 Aboriginals
 Victims of domestic violence

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