Information for lawyers

Group, test case and coronerís inquest certificates

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) provides funding for test cases and coronerís inquests. To receive this funding, individuals or groups, with the support of a lawyer, can apply to LAOís Group and Test Case Committee. The committee assesses each application and recommends whether or not to support it through a certificate.


Why LAO supports group applications, test cases and coronerís inquests

Legal Aid Ontario's (LAO's) statutory mandate is to "promote access to justice throughout Ontario for low-income individuals." The Group Applications and Test Cases Committee supports this mandate by providing LAO with expert, independent advice on applications for legal aid assistance for group certificates, test cases and/or coroner's inquests. They:

  • are a cost-effective way of addressing important legal issues
  • reduce the need for further litigation by allowing litigants to bring a single proceeding that represents a larger number of existing or potential actions
  • promote greater access to the legal system by clarifying laws to benefit specific groups or communities and low-income Ontarians generally.

Group applications

A group application is an application on behalf of a group of people who have a common interest in a legal matter.


Test cases


A test case is a legal proceeding that is representative of a larger number of existing or potential actions. Test cases are brought on behalf of one or more litigants to "test" the relevant law, legislation or practices for the benefit of a larger group.


Coroner's inquests

Coroner's inquests provide an opportunity for raising systemic issues of public policy which may be related to the death of the deceased. The aim is to encourage recommendations from the jury which might prevent similar tragedies in the future.


Eligibility

Types of applications considered

The committee considers applications for certificates in legal proceedings with broad implications, rather than legal proceedings that involve issues important only to the litigants themselves. The purpose of these proceedings is to determine, enforce or clarify important rights or obligations of all low-income Ontarians, specific groups, or disadvantaged communities.

In all cases, the committee will balance the potential cost of an application against its potential benefit. Generally, purely private matters are not considered.


Areas of law

The committee considers applications in the areas of criminal, family, refugee, clinic, mental health, Aboriginal, prison law and Charter litigation. The committee will also consider applications in other areas of law if it can be shown that the legal issue addressed in the application will benefit low-income Ontarians.


Selection criteria

The selection criteria are separated for two types of certificate requests: group applications and test cases, and coronerís inquests.


Group applications and test cases

Applicants or groups of applicants seeking funding for group applications and test cases will find it necessary for a lawyer to help them answer some of the questions below.

Financial

  1. Is the applicant or group financially eligible under LAO's financial criteria?
  2. Can the applicant or group contribute financially or in other ways?
  3. Can the applicant or group fund the case privately?
  4. Has the applicant or group attempted to raise funds privately or from other organizations? Will the applicant or group do so in the future?

Significance

  1. What is the significance of this issue to low-income Ontarians?
  2. How does the case improve access to justice?
  3. Which communities or groups share an interest in the outcome of the issue?
  4. Is this application representative of a larger number of existing or potential actions that raise the same legal or factual issues?

Novelty

  1. Has a court or tribunal considered this issue? What was the outcome?
  2. Is another person or group currently or likely to litigate this issue?
  3. Would the applicant be prejudiced if someone else chose to argue the issue? Is there someone in this position?

Merit

  1. What are the specific legal grounds for the application?
  2. What remedy is being sought? Are other remedies available?
  3. What is the likelihood of succeeding?
  4. Have other remedies or strategies been pursued? If so, what were they?

Cost benefit

  1. What is the estimated cost of the case, including research, preparation, drafting of legal documents and disbursements?
  2. In what way and to what extent will the benefit of a successful case flow to others beyond the immediate applicant(s)?

Other factors

  1. Are there other aspects of the case or the situation of the applicant(s) that the committee should consider?

Coroner's inquests

Applicants or groups of applicants seeking funding for coroner's inquests will find it necessary for a lawyer to help them answer some of the questions below.

Financial

  1. Is the applicant or group financially eligible under LAO's financial criteria?
  2. Can the applicant or group contribute financially or in other ways?
  3. Can the applicant or group fund the case privately?
  4. Has the applicant or group attempted to raise funds privately or from other organizations? Will the applicant or group do so in the future?

Significance/public interest

  1. What public interest issue(s) does the applicant intend to raise at the inquest?
  2. How will the applicant's participation at the inquest benefit low-income Ontarians?
  3. What systemic issues will be raised at the inquest? Who is likely to be affected by the jury's recommendations?

Novelty

  1. What other parties are already or likely to be present at the inquest?
  2. What public interest issues are those parties likely to raise? Why is the applicant's position/interest different than those of existing or likely parties?
  3. Will the inquest consider novel or unique public interest issues, or have other inquests considered similar issues?
  4. Assuming these issues have been raised in a previous inquest, are there compelling reasons to raise these issues again?

Cost benefit

  1. What is the estimated cost of representation at the inquest, including attendance, research, preparation, drafting of legal documents and disbursements?
  2. How many days will a lawyer's presence be required at the inquest? (The committee anticipates that a lawyer will not be needed to attend the entire inquest.)
  3. In what way and to what extent could the jury's recommendations flow to others beyond the parties to the inquest?

Other factors

  1. Are there other aspects of the inquest or situation that the Committee should consider?

How to apply for a certificate for a test case or coronerís inquest

Please fill out all of the applicable fields in the Application for Test Case funding and submit the completed form, as well as any other relevant documentation, online via the 'Submit by email' button at the end of the application form or by email directly to Wayne van der Meide, Regional Manager, Provincial Case Management Office.


For further information

Please contact:

Wayne van der Meide
Regional Manager, Provincial Case Management Office
Legal Aid Ontario
Tel: (613) 238-7931 ext.58
Email: vanderw@lao.on.ca


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