Frequently Asked Questions

Applying for legal aid

16 Questions

Where can I speak to a lawyer about my rights?

If you need legal help on the day you are in criminal or family court, you can talk to our lawyers (they are called duty counsel) at the courthouse. If you have been arrested or are detained by police, tell the police officer you want to speak to a lawyer. The police officer will call…

What can I do if I do not qualify for legal aid?

You can represent yourself or hire your own lawyer. Even if you decide to represent yourself, it’s good to consult a lawyer for some guidance and advice. LAO’s lawyer search tool or the Law Society Referral Service can help you find a qualified family lawyer. These online resources can also help you navigate the family law system: Ontario Court of Justice guide: Representing yourself at…

I have been refused legal aid. What can I do?

You can request a review if your legal aid application was refused. You have 22 business days from the date on your notice of refusal or cancellation. If you are in jail or hospitalized, you have 52 business days to request a review. Learn more about the appeal eligibility review process.

I have a family court matter. Can I get legal aid help?

We might be able to help if you financially qualify and if: you are subjected to domestic abuse you want to separate from your husband, wife or partner you need to decide custody, support or access Children’s Aid has your children or contacted you

How do I apply for legal aid?

You can: apply online—currently only available for people who do not own any property and either: receive Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program payments have no income are new to Canada are living in a shelter are incarcerated call us at 1‑800‑668‑8258 Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (The best time to call is…

Children’s Aid contacted me. Can I get legal aid help?

If you financially qualify, then we can help you if you: want to see your children. want your children at home with you (you should call us as soon as you are contacted by Children’s Aid). are a family member or a member of the child’s Indigenous community and you want the child to stay…

Can I re-apply for legal aid for the same matter?

You can re-apply for legal aid for the same matter if six months have passed since your original application was denied based on financial reasons, and there has been a change in your financial circumstances (e.g., job loss). Call us at 1-800-668-8258 (toll-free) or 416-979-1446 (local Toronto) to speak to a representative about your situation.

How do I let Legal Aid know who my lawyer is?

If, when you apply, you have a lawyer you want to work with (and they do legal aid work), you can tell us when you apply for a certificate. If you choose a lawyer after you’ve received your certificate, you can call us to let us know who it is or you can give your…

What is a consent and declaration form?

Consent and declaration forms are signed by you, the applicant, to create an agreement about how you will work with LAO. For example, by signing the form, you are giving LAO permission to: Look at your financial information to make sure you are eligible to receive our services Get information about your legal proceedings Share…

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Can I get legal aid?

5 Questions

What if my family unit is experiencing a unique situation (for instance, I am undergoing a divorce, my child is in custody, or I have a shared parenting arrangement)? How might this affect the size of my family unit and my eligibility for legal aid?

Please call us at 1‑800‑668‑8258 to speak with a client representative who can learn more about your situation and discuss your eligibility. Your spouse may not be counted as a member of your family unit depending on the circumstances of your divorce, and your child may not be considered dependent if they are not primarily…

Which family members count as part of my family unit?

Your family unit includes: You Your spouse (married, common-law, same-sex). A spouse is someone you: Are married to, or Live with in a common-law relationship (meaning you have lived together for three or more years, or you live together and have a biological/adopted child), or Live with in a conjugal (non-platonic) relationship, regardless of the…

Why does Legal Aid Ontario ask about the number of family members I have?

The number of family members in your family unit and the combined income of all members will affect your eligibility to receive legal aid. Please note that other factors will also affect your eligibility for legal aid (like whether you are experiencing domestic abuse and whether you own any assets).

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Client portal

19 Questions

Does the device used to access the client portal require a specific web browser?

The following internet browsers are recommended: Apple OS – Safari 10.1, 12.x, 13.x Apple iOS – Safari 10.x, 11.x 12.x Windows – Google Chrome versions 58.x and 69.x Android – Google Chrome versions 6.x to 10.x Microsoft Edge – 39.14986, 42.17134, 42.18362 Internet Explorer – 11.x Mozilla Firefox – 52.x ESR, 53.x, 60.x ESR, 62.x

How does my lawyer receive the certificate?

If you named a lawyer on your application, the lawyer will be notified electronically via the solicitor portal. If a lawyer was not named, you can access your certificate number through your client portal account and provide it to your lawyer to look up via the solicitor portal.

Can I create my own password or will one be given to me?

p>You can create your own secure password but it must have the following to ensure it meets the security standards: Minimum 8 characters and maximum of 30 characters Minimum of 1 Capital letter Minimum of 1 number Minimum of 1 special character (e.g. !@#$)

I cannot find the criminal charge I am facing. What should I do?

Simplify your search by entering just the key word and check the results (e.g. theft, assault). If you are applying for more than one charge, you can leave the one(s) you cannot find and your lawyer can contact LAO to have them added later. If you have only one charge and it cannot be found,…

What is the client portal?

The client portal is an existing online feature for clients. Clients have the option to sign up to electronically sign the Consent and Declaration (C&D) and view LAO application documents. On May 17, 2021, the client portal will allow Ontarians with specific legal needs and who meet certain financial criteria to apply online. There are…

How long will it take to complete an online application?

About 15 minutes. Less time is required if you are an existing LAO client because you will not be required to set up a profile and enter your personal contact information. If you are an existing client and need to update your contact information, you can do this in the portal. Infographics Click here to…

How long does it take for my online application to be approved?

As soon as the application is submitted. If further review is required, you will be notified through your portal account. You will receive email notification and/or can check status through your online portal account. Infographics Click here to download image. Open a larger version

Can anyone apply for legal aid using the client portal?

Phase one has specific criteria that needs to be met in order for applicants to be able to apply online. The applicant must: be in receipt of Ontario Works, or Ontario Disability Support Program, or have no income have a criminal defence, family, child protection or Immigration/Refugee matter that is in Ontario not own any…

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COVID-19 FAQs

5 Questions

COVID-19 FAQs: legal aid services

I have a legal problem and also experiencing domestic abuse. How can I get legal aid help during this COVID‑19 crisis? You can call us at 1‑800-668‑8258 from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and we will ensure your application is processed quickly to get you the legal help you need. During…

COVID-19 FAQs: Immigration and Refugee Law

On this page: Legal aid Refugee claims Refugee appeals Immigration detention Deportations Work Permits / Study Permits / Visitors Extension H&C Application / Pre-Removal Risk Assessment application Interim Federal Health Benefits More information Legal Aid Can I still get legal aid for my immigration or refugee case? Yes. LAO continues to issue immigration and refugee…

COVID-19 FAQs: Criminal

On this page: Legal aid services Court appearances Jails More information Legal aid services I need legal advice about my criminal case. Can I go to the duty counsel office at the courthouse to speak to someone? In-person criminal law services are available at Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO) courthouse offices. Staff are on-site Monday to…

COVID-19 FAQs: Family

On this page: Courts Support Serving documents More information Courts What kind of matters are the courts hearing? The easing of public health measures means increased capacity for courts to return to in-person proceedings. Visit ontariocourts.ca to find out what method (in-person, video, or phone) each type of matter is being heard by the family…

COVID-19 FAQs: mental health

Is the Consent and Capacity Board (CCB) still holding hearings during the COVID-19 crisis? Yes, but all hearings are now over teleconference with some limited availability for videoconferencing. Details for the remote hearing will be shared in your Notice of Hearing document. Hearings are held in two hour time slots from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday…

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Criminal law

53 Questions

What help is available for parole hearings?

We will provide you with a legal aid certificate if you meet: All the following factors: Your parole hearing will take place at least six months after the day you apply If you serve a life sentence or have a dangerous offender designation or long-term supervision order, you can apply up to a year before…

Restraining orders

Are you worried that your partner or your ex will hurt you or your children? You can get a restraining order from a family court judge, which means that the person you’re getting it for won’t be able to: come within a certain distance of you and your children come within a certain distance of…

When does sentencing happen?

In most criminal cases, sentencing usually takes place right after an offender has pled guilty or been found guilty after a trial. In some cases, the judge will not impose a sentence right away, but will instead adjourn the case to a later date for a sentencing hearing. Adjourning a sentencing may happen for many…

When do people typically enter into peace bonds?

The two most common situations where people enter into peace bonds are: An accused agrees to enter into a peace bond because the Crown will agree to withdraw their charge(s) if they do so. This is the most common situation OR A peace bond hearing is held, and a judge or justice of the peace…

What is a sentencing hearing?

A sentencing hearing is where an offender is given a sentence by a judge. It may take place right after an offender has pled guilty or been found guilty—or it may be days, weeks or months afterward. Sentencing hearings can be very short (sometimes only a few minutes) or much longer, taking hours or days…

What is a conviction?

An offender who has a conviction registered against them will have a criminal record and will have to apply for a pardon to have the conviction removed. If a judge makes a finding of guilt and gives any sentence other than an absolute discharge or a conditional discharge, a conviction will be registered against the…

What to do before your first appearance at criminal court

Whether you’re released by the police or on bail, you will get a piece of paper called a release document that gives you the: date time location of your first court date What is first appearance? This is not your trial date. This is when you go to court to find out about the case…

What is a Pre-Sentence Report (PSR)?

A Pre-Sentence Report (PSR) is a report prepared by a probation officer to help the judge decide what sentence to give. It is used to find out about an offender’s background. If a judge orders a PSR, a probation officer will interview the offender, the offender’s family, friends, and employer (if they are working). A…

Firearm prohibitions

If an offender is found guilty of certain criminal offences, the judge may make an order preventing them from having things like guns, cross‑bows or ammunition for a period of time. Usually a firearms prohibition is for a number of years, but it can be for life. Criminal offences where a firearm was used or…

Conditional sentence (“house arrest”)

A conditional sentence is an imprisonment (jail) sentence, except that the offender serves the sentence outside of jail, under strict, jail‑like conditions. Conditional sentences are sometimes called “house arrest,” because they often require an offender to spend all or part of the sentence in their house. Just like imprisonment, a conditional sentence will result in…

Conditional discharge

A conditional discharge is similar to an absolute discharge because a finding of guilt is made, but no conviction is registered. What makes it different from an absolute discharge is that there are conditions that the offender must follow. The conditions always come in a probation order that can be in effect from one to…

When is a certificate not issued for criminal appeals?

If you are making a criminal appeal, your case is NOT eligible for a certificate if you: Received a suspended sentence with probation Are appealing a non-custodial sentence (i.e. there is no jail time required) Received a conditional sentence with terms (such as house arrest) Finished serving a sentence or will complete a sentence within 30…

Can I re-apply for legal aid for the same matter?

You can re-apply for legal aid for the same matter if six months have passed since your original application was denied based on financial reasons, and there has been a change in your financial circumstances (e.g., job loss). Call us at 1-800-668-8258 (toll-free) or 416-979-1446 (local Toronto) to speak to a representative about your situation.

What is a surety?

A surety is a person who comes to court and promises to supervise an accused person while they are out on bail. A surety also promises an amount of money to the court if the accused doesn’t follow one or more of the bail conditions or doesn’t show up to court when required. If you…

What is a sentence?

A sentence is the penalty that is given to an offender who has pled guilty or who has been found guilty after a trial. A sentence is different from diversion or a peace bond because the judge must make a finding of guilt before a sentence can be given. Lawyers and judges will often say…

What are duty counsel?

Duty counsel are lawyers provided by Legal Aid Ontario who can assist you on the day that you are in court. If you do not have a lawyer and you are in court, duty counsel may be able to help you by: Giving you advice about your legal rights, obligations and the court process; Helping…

Where can provincial inmates apply for legal aid?

A provincial inmate is a person is serving their sentence at a correctional facility run by the Government of Ontario (specifically the Ministry of the Solicitor General). Provincial inmates are different from federal inmates, who serve their sentence at a correctional facility run by the Government of Canada. If you are being detained at a…

When should an accused agree to enter into a peace bond?

The decision to enter into a peace bond or not depends on a lot of different things and is different in each case. Factors like the strength of the Crown’s case, personal circumstances, and risks of losing the case at trial are all things that might be considered. The decision is always the accused’s alone,…

What is a victim impact statement?

Some sentencing hearings involve a Victim Impact Statement (VIS). A VIS is usually written by the victim. This is done to allow the victim an opportunity to describe how they have been affected by the criminal offence. It can be read aloud by the victim or Crown or simply filed with the court as an exhibit….

What is a peace bond?

A peace bond is a court order to keep the peace and be on good behaviour for a period of time. This essentially means that the person must not be charged with a criminal offence. Peace bonds often have other conditions too, such as not having any weapons or staying away from a person or…

What is a peace bond hearing?

Sometimes a person can be required to attend court for a peace bond hearing. This usually happens where a person has not been charged with an offence but a complaint has been made and the court requires them to respond to the complaint. The person making the complaint is called the “complainant” and the person…

What is a joint submission?

A joint submission is when both the Crown and the offender’s lawyer (or duty counsel) agree on the sentence they are asking the judge to give. In most cases, a joint submission will have been agreed to by lawyers in a resolution meeting. However, even when the lawyers have a joint submission, the judge does…

What is a finding of guilt?

A finding of guilt is a ruling made by a judge. A judge will make a finding of guilt in one of two situations: an accused has pled guilty and accepts facts that amount to a criminal offence; OR the Crown has proven at a trial that an accused committed a criminal offence. Except in…

Restitution orders

A restitution order is an order to pay money to the victim of a criminal offence. It is different from a fine or a charitable donation. A restitution order is often made when the judge wants the offender to pay to repair or replace something that was damaged, or to compensate for lost income. Restitution…

Probation

Probation is a court order to do (or not do) certain things for a period of time. It is usually called a probation order. An offender who gets a conditional discharge or a suspended sentence will always have a probation order that they must follow. A probation order can also be combined with a fine,…

Is agreeing to a peace bond the same thing as pleading guilty?

No. A person does not plead guilty when they enter into a peace bond. There is no finding of guilt made or conviction registered if a person agrees to a peace bond. One of the reasons why a person may agree to enter a peace bond is to avoid a criminal record. While a peace…

Imprisonment (jail)

Imprisonment is a jail sentence. After a judge gives a jail sentence, the offender is taken to jail and a conviction is registered against them. An offender has to apply for a pardon in order to have a jail sentence removed from their record. If an offender is sent to jail for less than two…

Getting legal help at a criminal court in the Greater Toronto Area

If you have to attend criminal court in the Greater Toronto Area and you are looking for legal advice and assistance, there are options. If you qualify for legal aid, you can apply for a legal aid certificate and find a lawyer who accepts certificates by using the “Find a lawyer” tool on our website….

Fine

A fine is an amount of money that an offender must pay to the court. It is different from restitution or a charitable donation. If an offender is given a fine, they will have a conviction registered against them and will have to apply for a pardon to have the fine removed from their record….

Driving prohibitions

If an offender is found guilty of certain criminal offences, the judge may prevent them from driving for a period of time. This is called a driving prohibition. If the offence is a “drinking and driving” offence the judge must impose a driving prohibition. Depending on the type of criminal offence and the offender’s record,…

Do you have to deposit money if you agree to a peace bond?

Generally, a person entering into a peace bond doesn’t have to deposit money with the court. However, they do need to pledge an amount of money to the court—usually $500 or $1000, but the amount can be higher or lower. A peace bond is a recognizance, similar to a recognizance of bail. By pledging money,…

DNA orders

A DNA order, made by a judge, allows the police to take a sample of bodily substances (such as saliva or blood) from an offender. The substance is taken for the purpose of creating a DNA profile, which is stored in a databank. The databank is maintained by the RCMP and can be used to…

Bail conditions

Bail is when you are allowed to stay outside of jail while you wait for your case to go through the court system. Usually, there are rules known as bail conditions. You have to agree to follow these rules when you are out on bail. What types of bail conditions do I need to follow?…

Suspended sentence

Like a conditional discharge, a suspended sentence involves following conditions in a probation order for a period of one to three years. The main difference between a conditional discharge and a suspended sentence is that an offender who gets a suspended sentence has a conviction registered against them. This means that the offender who gets a…

Intermittent sentence (“weekends”)

An intermittent sentence is a jail sentence that the offender serves in ”chunks” of time, instead of all at once. For example, if an offender gets an intermittent sentence, they may go jail on the weekends, (i.e., Friday night until Monday morning) but be out of jail during the week. This continues until the sentence is…

Absolute discharge

An absolute discharge is the lowest‑level adult sentence that an offender can get. If an offender gets an absolute discharge, a finding of guilt is made but no conviction is registered, and they are not given any conditions to follow (i.e. a probation order). The offender is finished with their case that day. They don’t have…

Diversion

Diversion is when you are offered a chance to do something like community service or counselling to have your charge withdrawn (which means it will be dropped permanently) or stayed (put on hold for up to a year). Sometimes, the Crown can see that a case does not need to be dealt with through guilty…

What should I do if I’ve been asked to make a charitable donation?

It is up to you to provide proof of any charitable donation that you make. As with community service, a charitable donation must be made to a non‑profit community or charitable organization, not at a business or other type of for‑profit organization. Giving money to a private citizen as an act of charity generally won’t…

Bail hearings

A bail hearing is when a judge decides whether you should either be kept in jail or allowed to go back to the community while your case is in criminal court. After a bail hearing, you may get bail, which is a court order that lets you stay in the community while your case is…

Guilty pleas

You do not have to plead guilty. Remember: it is up to the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you have committed an offence. This means that either a judge or a jury is absolutely certain that you broke the law and also knew you were breaking the law. If the judge or…

Criminal charge process

If you cannot afford a lawyer, call us to find out if you’re eligible for legal help. If you qualify for legal aid, we may either cover the cost of a lawyer to represent you or you can visit one of our lawyers at court (they’re called duty counsel) who can give you some advice…

Tips for appearing in court remotely

If you have to appear in court remotely, you will need to know about the process for remote court appearances. This information should have been included with the documents your received after you were charged. If it was not, you can visit the Ontario Court of Justice website for details: www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/ For technical information about…

What is risk to liberty and how is it determined?

Risk to liberty means it is likely that a person accused of a crime will face jail time if found guilty. If you qualify for legal aid and there is a risk to your liberty, you may be eligible for a certificate to cover the cost of a lawyer to represent you. Risk to liberty…

Where can federal inmates apply for legal aid?

A federal inmate is a person who is serving their sentence at a correctional facility run by the Government of Canada (specifically the Correctional Service of Canada). Federal inmates are different from provincial inmates, who serve their sentence at a correctional facility run by the Government of Ontario. If you are being detained at a…

What is a disclosure package?

A disclosure package is a package of documents related to your criminal case collected by the Crown and police. The Crown and police will use this information to try to convict you. Your disclosure package may include: The Crown Screening Form (also called a Charge Screening form). This tells you how the Crown plans to…

How do I get my disclosure package?

If your criminal matter is taking place in the Ontario Court of Justice (OCJ), please contact the Provincial Crown Attorney’s office for your disclosure package. If your criminal matter is taking place in the Superior Court of Justice (SCJ), contact the Federal Crown Attorney’s office. If you are self-represented, you can also get your disclosure…

What do I do after I get my disclosure package?

After you get your disclosure package, you can review it with a lawyer or duty counsel to find out your options and get legal advice. If your court date is within five business days, please contact duty counsel in the court location where your matter is being heard for next steps. If your court date…

What help is available for a criminal appeal?

If you do not agree with the judge’s decision in your criminal case, you can ask the Provincial/Territorial Courts of Appeal or the Federal Court of Appeal to review your case. If the appeal court allows the appeal, it can reverse or change the judge’s decision, or order a new trial or hearing. If you…

What help is available for Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) charges?

You may be eligible for a legal aid certificate for the charges laid against you under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) if you qualify financially and there is a risk to your liberty. Risk to liberty is determined based on the seriousness of the charges, the case circumstances, and if there is a criminal…

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Delivery of documents

2 Questions

How do I send documents to Legal Aid Ontario (LAO)?

For clients, the preferred way to submit documents to LAO is via the client portal. Not registered? Call us at 1‑800‑668‑8258 Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (EST) for help in over 300 languages. Lawyers should use the lawyer portal to submit documents to LAO. Read the new Delivery of Documents rule to learn about the…

Domestic abuse

2 Questions

Restraining orders

Are you worried that your partner or your ex will hurt you or your children? You can get a restraining order from a family court judge, which means that the person you’re getting it for won’t be able to: come within a certain distance of you and your children come within a certain distance of…

Family law

16 Questions

What if my family unit is experiencing a unique situation (for instance, I am undergoing a divorce, my child is in custody, or I have a shared parenting arrangement)? How might this affect the size of my family unit and my eligibility for legal aid?

Please call us at 1‑800‑668‑8258 to speak with a client representative who can learn more about your situation and discuss your eligibility. Your spouse may not be counted as a member of your family unit depending on the circumstances of your divorce, and your child may not be considered dependent if they are not primarily…

I have a family court matter. Can I get legal aid help?

We might be able to help if you financially qualify and if: you are subjected to domestic abuse you want to separate from your husband, wife or partner you need to decide custody, support or access Children’s Aid has your children or contacted you

Children’s Aid contacted me. Can I get legal aid help?

If you financially qualify, then we can help you if you: want to see your children. want your children at home with you (you should call us as soon as you are contacted by Children’s Aid). are a family member or a member of the child’s Indigenous community and you want the child to stay…

Starting a family court case

For any family court case, there are Family Law Rules that have to be followed. In those rules, you can find out the exact steps of a case and what forms you will need to complete. Tip: the family court forms match the family law rule number. For example, rule 8 is about starting a…

Serving court documents

Serving court documents or “service” is when you give a copy of all the documents in your case to the other person in your case, who is known as the other party. You have to serve your documents to the other party because that person has a right to: know about a case that has…

Simple divorce

A simple divorce is also known as an uncontested divorce, which is when you and your ex agree to divorce. This is different from a contested divorce, which is when you and your ex do not agree to all the issues raised by the divorce. This could include disagreements about child custody or support or…

Parenting time (formerly access)

Parenting time (formerly access) is the right to visit—or be visited by—your children. It also means the right to get information on your child’s health, education and well being. People often get confused by decision-making responsibility (formerly custody) and parenting time. Decision-making responsibility is when you have the right to make decisions about how to…

Decision-making responsibility (formerly custody)

Decision-making responsibility (formerly custody) is about making major decisions about how to care for and raise your children. These decisions could include: Health care Religion or spirituality Education Decision-making responsibility is not about where the child lives. For example you could have sole decision-making responsibility and are the only decision maker, but your child lives…

Child support

Child support is the amount of money that one parent pays to the other parent to help pay for the costs of caring for the child. Usually, the “payor parent” either spends less time with the children or, if they spend an equal amount of time with the children, makes more money. A parent can…

Which family members count as part of my family unit?

Your family unit includes: You Your spouse (married, common-law, same-sex). A spouse is someone you: Are married to, or Live with in a common-law relationship (meaning you have lived together for three or more years, or you live together and have a biological/adopted child), or Live with in a conjugal (non-platonic) relationship, regardless of the…

Mediation

Mediation is a process where a trained professional helps you and your ex to settle a variety of issues. Mediation might be right for you if you have no concerns for your safety and you and your ex are both open to working together. Mediation is a good alternative to going to family court. Here…

Separation

Separation is when you and your ex—you can either be married or common‑law—decide to live apart. If you’re married, being separated doesn’t mean your marriage has ended. A divorce is when a court officially ends your marriage. How do you “legally” separate in Ontario? Here are some tips to guide you through the process. What…

Questions about serving family court documents

What is service? What is serving documents? This is the process of giving a copy of the documents in your family case to the other party. What is personal service? It’s when the person who gives a copy of the documents does it in‑person and by hand-delivering a copy to the other party or their…

Why does Legal Aid Ontario ask about the number of family members I have?

The number of family members in your family unit and the combined income of all members will affect your eligibility to receive legal aid. Please note that other factors will also affect your eligibility for legal aid (like whether you are experiencing domestic abuse and whether you own any assets).

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Where can I speak to a lawyer about my rights?

If you need legal help on the day you are in criminal or family court, you can talk to our lawyers (they are called duty counsel) at the courthouse. If you have been arrested or are detained by police, tell the police officer you want to speak to a lawyer. The police officer will call…

Can I change my lawyer?

In rare cases, you can change your lawyer. However, it is difficult to do so, especially if work on your case has started. Once a lawyer has accepted the legal aid certificate issued to you, you must obtain permission from LAO to change lawyers. Before granting this permission, LAO staff consider the reason for your request…

Where can I get help if my refugee claim was denied?

If you qualify for legal aid, we will pay for a lawyer. This lawyer has to accepts legal aid work (not all lawyers do legal aid work).  You can search our Find a Lawyer tool to find a lawyer near you. Number us to see if you qualify.

I am new to Canada. Can I get legal aid help with my refugee claim?

If you qualify for legal aid, we will pay for a lawyer. This lawyer has to accepts legal aid work (not all lawyers do legal aid work). You can search our Find a Lawyer tool to help you find a lawyer. Call us to see if you qualify. Infographics Click here to download image. PDF:…

I am being deported. Can I get legal aid help?

If you financially qualify for legal aid, we will pay for a lawyer. This lawyer has to be somebody who accepts legal aid work (not all lawyers do legal aid work). You can search our Find a Lawyer tool to help you find a lawyer. Call us to see if you qualify.

Timelines for your refugee claim

The timeline for your claim depends on where you started your claim. If you are making a claim when you arrive at a Canadian land border, airport or a seaport, you will not have much time to complete your Basis of Claim (BOC) form and immigration forms. The timeline for starting a claim is very different…

Appealing refugee decisions

Can I appeal? If your refugee claim is rejected, you might be able to appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD). However, you are not allowed to appeal if: If you are a designated foreign national (DFN) If your claim was withdrawn or abandoned If you arrived in Canada directly from the United States and made your…

Before your hearing

Keep your important deadlines in mind. You need to collect your documents and submit these 10 days before your hearing. You can also make changes to your Basis of Claim (BOC) form and other immigration forms you completed for your claim before this date. In addition, you have to update the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), Immigration,…

Completing your Basis of Claim (BOC) form

The Basis of Claim (BOC) form is an important part of your refugee claim. It explains who you are, what you are afraid of in your country and why you need refugee protection in Canada. Get legal help as soon as possible. If you are making a claim when you arrive in Canada, it is…

If your refugee claim is denied

Get a lawyer as soon as possible. If you do not take action, you could be deported very quickly. If you are not eligible for an appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD), you can apply for a judicial review at the Federal Court. Only a lawyer can represent you at Federal Court. Who should apply…

What is an admissibility hearing?

An admissibility hearing can be held to decide if you are allowed to come into or stay in Canada, if you are a permanent resident or foreign national. Admissibility hearings can be started for these reasons: criminal convictions or proof you committed crimes outside Canada membership in a criminal organization human or international rights violations…

Refugee law

Legal Aid Ontario offers assistance with refugee and immigration matters. Find out more The following categories outline what you will need to make a refugee claim, important deadlines you will need to keep in mind, and helpful resources to get you started: Timelines The timeline for your claim depends on where you started your claim…

File and serve your application for a judicial review (Ottawa)

Take the copies of applications for judicial review to the Registrar’s Office of the Federal Court of Canada. It is located at 90 Sparks Street (Sparks & Metcalfe), 5th Floor. You will have to pay a $50 filing fee; Once the Registrar gives your applications back with a court number, you have to take them to the…

File and serve your application for a judicial review (Toronto)

Take the copies of applications for judicial review to the Registrar’s Office of the Federal Court of Canada. It is located at 180 Queen Street West, Suite 200, (corner University Ave), 2nd Floor. You will have to pay a $50 filing fee; Once the Registrar gives your applications back with a court number, you have to take them to…

Links and resources for refugee help

Legal aid and lawyers: Legal Aid Ontario (LAO): Services are provided to eligible refugee claimants by private bar and LAO staff lawyers, and are also available at some legal clinics. Services include Basis of Claim form preparation, representation at refugee hearings, at the refugee appeal division, and at judicial reviews (Federal Court). Refugee Law Office…

Your refugee claim: before you get started

This section will give you an overview of what you need to know before you start your refugee claim. 1. Get legal help It is very important for you to get legal help right away with your refugee claim. You have a few choices: Lawyers You can find a private lawyer. You can contact Legal…

Documents to support your refugee claim

Documents are an important part of your claim. They will help prove who you are, how you came to Canada, why you are making a refugee claim and why your refugee claim should be accepted. While it can be very helpful to have documents to confirm every part of your refugee claim, it is possible…

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Indigenous people

14 Questions

What are Gladue reports?

Gladue reports and plans contain information on the unique circumstances of Aboriginal people accused of an offence or Aboriginal offenders. The court can consider these reports during sentencing. Sentencing in the Gladue court focuses on restorative justice and community justice programs, while also making sure that offenders receive fair sentences. Legal workers from Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto (ALST) and several…

Where are Gladue services available?

Gladue-related services are offered at courts in Toronto, Hamilton, Brantford, the Waterloo-Wellington area, London, and Sarnia. In Toronto, London, and Sarnia there are dedicated Gladue courts. There are also Aboriginal Courtwork programs in many courts across Canada.

What is a Gladue court?

A Gladue court handles the cases of Aboriginal people who have been charged with a criminal offence. The Gladue court proposes sentences that are more in line with Aboriginal traditions than jail, such as community justice programs.

What is Gladue?

Gladue refers to a right that Aboriginal people have under the Criminal Code. Gladue applies to all Aboriginal people who self-identify as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit. In-depth information about Gladue is available from Legal Aid BC’s Gladue and You.

How is Gladue applied in Canadian courts?

In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in R v. Gladue that courts must consider an Aboriginal offender’s background when he or she is being sentenced for a crime. Factors that are considered include discrimination, physical abuse, separation from culture or family, or drug and alcohol abuse. Every criminal court in Canada is required to consider Gladue factors…

How do the Acts affect the sentencing of Aboriginal people in a criminal court case?

The courts have decided in previous court cases, such as Gladue, that when sentencing an Aboriginal offender judges should: consider all available sentences other than jail time that are reasonable, and pay particular attention to the life circumstances of Aboriginal offenders. This means that if you self-identify as Aboriginal and you are convicted of a…

Does Legal Aid Ontario offer legal services for Aboriginal people?

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) provides eligible Aboriginal people with family and criminal law services. To provide the best service possible, lawyers who represent Aboriginal legal aid clients in criminal matters must take special training to make sure they understand the unique legal status of Aboriginal people. To find out more about eligibility for legal aid services, visit the LAO website.

Why is it important that you self-identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit?

Criminal Code, Youth Criminal Justice Act and Child, Youth and Family Services Act all have parts that consider the special legal status of Aboriginal people in Canada. If you self-identify as Aboriginal, your lawyer can make sure that Gladue factors and principles are applied to your legal case. Gladue refers to a right that all Aboriginal people have under the Criminal Code. Telling your lawyer you are…

What does it mean for an Aboriginal person to self-identify?

If you are an Aboriginal person entering the justice system, you should identify yourself as a First Nations, Métis, or Inuit person so duty counsel or your lawyer can follow the areas of law that deal with Aboriginal rights. In other words, you should tell duty counsel or your lawyer that you are an Aboriginal person. You should…

Where can I find legal services and resources for Aboriginal people?

There are many community-based legal services and resources available for Aboriginal people in Ontario. Aboriginal Legal Services Operates legal-related programs for Aboriginal people in Toronto. Human Rights Legal Support Offers legal assistance to people in communities across Ontario who believe they have experienced discrimination. Ministry of Indigenous Affairs Access to Ontario government…

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Mental health law

29 Questions

What is a treatment order and/or a treatment order hearing?

A treatment order, which is made by a judge, requires an unfit accused to be made fit to stand trial through psychiatric treatment. It is a unique circumstance where the accused does not have a choice in receiving treatment. Treatment orders almost always include a requirement for the accused to take some kind of medication….

Why aren’t Mental Health Act examinations used more often in criminal court?

Hospitals and psychiatric facilities are often full or nearly full of patients, so it is usually difficult to get a facility to agree to examine the accused. Also, fitness assessments and not criminally responsible assessments are often given priority at facilities over Mental Health Act (MHA) examinations. Unlike other types of assessments (such as fitness assessments),…

What is an NCR assessment?

An NCR assessment can be ordered by a judge to determine whether a person who was suffering from a mental disorder at the time they committed an offence was criminally responsible for his or her actions. Much like a fitness assessment, in most cases the person being assessed is sent to a secure psychiatric facility…

What happens if an accused is found “fit” after a fitness hearing?

If an accused is found “fit” after a fitness hearing, the accused will continue through the system as any other person would. This means that they may seek to have a bail hearing, set a trial date, plead guilty or simply adjourn their case to another day. Even if an accused has been found “fit”…

What does “unfit to stand trial” mean?

“Unfit to stand trial” is defined in the Criminal Code. It means that the accused person is unable, because of a mental disorder, to defend against the charge(s) they are facing or to tell their lawyer what they want to do with their case. Specifically, “unfit to stand trial” means: The accused is not able to…

How long is a treatment order for?

Treatment orders can only be for a maximum of 60 days. In some cases the accused is returned to court after being made “fit” by the treatment before the 60 day period is up.

How does a judge determine whether to order a fitness assessment?

In order to decide whether or not there are reasonable grounds to believe the accused is “unfit to stand trial” and order an assessment, the judge or the accused’s lawyer may ask the accused things like: Do you know what you’re charged with? Do you know what the job of the judge is? (Pointing to…

Mental Health Act examinations – What is the Mental Health Act?

Ontario’s Mental Health Act, like the Criminal Code, gives courts certain powers to have an accused person sent to a hospital for a psychiatric examination. It also gives police officers and doctors certain powers to have someone sent for a psychiatric assessment. At the same time, the Mental Health Act protects the rights of persons…

When will an NCR assessment usually be requested?

If an NCR assessment is requested by either the Crown or the accused’s lawyer, it will usually be after the accused has pled guilty or has been found guilty after a trial, and there is some evidence to suggest that they were suffering from a mental disorder at the time they committed a criminal offence….

When will a judge usually make a fitness assessment order?

Judges can make a fitness assessment order at any point from the time an accused first appears in court, right up to (or during) sentencing. Most fitness assessments are usually ordered shortly after an accused has made an appearance in bail court. In fact, if a fitness assessment is ordered, a bail hearing can’t occur…

What is mental health diversion?

Mental health diversion is a type of diversion. Mental health diversion involves a way of resolving or dealing with criminal charges in a manner that doesn’t involve a guilty plea or a trial. Usually an accused person will have to take responsibility for their actions. Just as mental health courts operate in many different ways,…

What is mental health court?

Many courthouses across Ontario now have mental health courts. Mental health courts are criminal law courts created to help deal with accused persons who have mental health and other related issues. Depending on the courthouse that you are in, the mental health court may or may not be called “mental health court.” These courts are…

What is a fitness hearing?

A fitness hearing is like a short trial where a judge decides whether or not an accused is “unfit to stand trial”. This occurs after the accused has been assessed by a psychiatrist, and has returned to court. Unlike an actual criminal trial, it is only necessary to prove the accused is unfit to stand…

What is a “fitness to stand trial” assessment?

This type of assessment is probably the most common situation when a judge wants to determine whether or not an accused is “unfit to stand trial”. This type of assessment is usually called a “fitness to stand trial” assessment, or simply a “fitness assessment”, or a “Form 48”. If an accused is sent for this type…

What happens after an examination under the Mental Health Act is finished?

The senior physician (doctor) at the facility where the examination occurred must report, in writing, on the mental condition of the accused. The judge, the accused (or his/her lawyer) and the Crown all get a copy of the report. The report is often used to assist with sentencing the accused, but may be used for…

What does NCR mean?

NCR stands for “Not Criminally Responsible.” It is defined in section 16 of the Criminal Code. Section 16 of the Criminal Code states that a person is not criminally responsible for something that he or she did (or didn’t do, if they were legally required to do something) if they were suffering from a mental disorder at…

How long is an examination under the Mental Health Act for?

An examination under s. 22 cannot be longer than two months. The judge can make the examination for a shorter period if he or she wishes. This is usually only an issue if an in‑custody examination order is made under section 22 of the MHA.

How long is a fitness assessment for?

The length of a fitness assessment mostly depends on whether or not the accused agrees with the order. If the accused agrees with the order (either personally or though his/her lawyer), then the order can be for up to 30 days, not including holidays and the time needed to transport them to and from the place…

Can the police take a person to a hospital for a psychiatric examination?

An officer can take a person into custody and take them to a hospital for a psychiatric examination if the officer believes that: The person has a mental disorder; and They are acting in a disorderly manner involving violence or a threat of violence to themselves or another person; and The person’s mental disorder is…

Can duty counsel assist with getting an NCR assessment order?

No. There are too many serious long-term consequences that can come from an NCR assessment for duty counsel to assist with this type of matter. If either an unrepresented accused or the Crown is seeking an NCR assessment, duty counsel will not assist. An accused should have his or her own lawyer if this situation…

What happens in mental health court?

Many different criminal court proceedings can happen in mental health court. Some mental health courts deal only with assessment orders or mental health diversion. Other mental health courts do almost everything, including bail hearings, guilty pleas, judicial pre‑trials, and some trials for accused persons with mental health issues. Mental health courts are designed to deal…

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Other legal issues

5 Questions

I want to make a will and power of attorney. Where can I get help?

You may be able to get help with your will and power of attorney from: a community legal clinic Pro Bono Ontario Pro Bono Students Canada You can find information about wills and power of attorneys through the Ministry of the Attorney General and the website, StepstoJustice.ca.

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