Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is an independent, publicly funded organization established by the Government of Ontario. LAO was formed to promote access to justice for low-income individuals. Furthermore, the mission of the LAO is to provide high quality legal services in a cost-effective and efficient manner (Legal Aid Ontario, n.d.).
Approximately 5,000 lawyers contribute to the success of LAO by accepting legal aid certificates in exchange for a reduced rate and limited billable hours. “Every day LAO helps almost 4,000 disadvantaged people, including single parents seeking child support; domestic violence survivors; parents seeking custody of children; refugees; and accused persons” (Legal Aid Ontario, n.d.). Some of the services offered by the organization include, access to duty counsel, community clinics, and student legal services. A full list of services can be found at Legal Aid Ontario – Services.
LAO has established eligibility requirements for who, and what issues or cases can qualify for a legal aid certificate. Individuals with a need for social assistance usually qualify. However, many individuals can qualify due to the importance of the matter for which they require assistance.
When considering the financial factors, LAO has set forth that an individual with an annual income of seventeen thousand seven hundred and thirty-one (CAD$17,731) Canadian dollars and under, is eligible to qualify for a legal aid certificate. Nevertheless, approval for the certificate is subject to the consideration of assets in the form of property, savings, or investments. An individual may also qualify for support from LAO if they agree to a contribution agreement. A contribution agreement sets out the terms of repayment for some or all legal fees and disbursements incurred during the matter. For more information regarding the eligibility criteria, click the following – Legal Aid Ontario – Eligibility.
LAO representatives help individuals with criminal, family, immigration, refugee, and civil matters. If an individual does not qualify on the basis of the previously stated financial factors, they may do so on the consideration that their matter is complex or deemed serious in nature.
Domestic Violence Matters
When considering domestic violence or abuse, the requirements change to accommodate a larger group of individuals. The financial eligibility of an individual who has experienced domestic abuse increases from the previously stated to twenty-two thousand seven hundred and twenty (CAD$22,720) Canadian dollars. Along with the services stated previously, an individual is eligible to receive two (2) hours of free consultation with an experienced lawyer in domestic violence matters. This consultation does not require the approval of a legal aid certificate. For more information regarding the eligibility criteria in matter of domestic abuse, view Legal Aid Ontario – Domestic Abuse.
For all other information on LAO, visit the website for the organization at Legal Aid Ontario – Website or call toll-free at 1-800-668-8258.
Refugee is a term used for, “a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, n.d.). A Convention Refugee is an individual that is required to leave their country of residence out of fear. Specifically, if the fear is based on discrimination due to an individual’s race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or social group.