Legal Aid Ontario and Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services sign new service agreement

The new service agreement will improve Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services’ ability to provide access to legal aid services in a culturally appropriate way for members of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities

Published: December 6, 2022

TORONTO (December 6, 2022) Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) and Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services (NAN Legal) are pleased to announce that, on October 20th, in Thunder Bay, the two organizations signed a new service agreement under the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020.

LAO and NAN Legal have worked together since 2004 under a Memorandum of Understanding and, over the last year, they have dedicated time and resources to develop this new service agreement. The agreement seeks to create a strong foundation for providing the tools to do the important work of delivering legal aid services in a culturally appropriate way for members of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) communities. 

The service agreement ensures a successful transition to the continued delivery of essential legal aid services within the NAN territory. It also includes key improvements which assist NAN Legal’s ability to better serve the members of the NAN communities by providing:

  • More autonomy for NAN Legal in the administration of LAO’s certificate and duty counsel services;
  • More input for NAN Legal on LAO’s selection of the roster of lawyers who will provide those legal services; and
  • The authority for NAN Legal to develop and manage its own staff lawyer program.

Through the service agreement LAO has also agreed to increase its funding and investment in the legal aid services and programs that NAN Legal administers and delivers to its members.

LAO and NAN Legal recognize that NAN Legal is a unique service provider, and this uniqueness was considered and is reflected in the new service agreement. The agreement commits both LAO and NAN Legal to a forum of open dialogue to continue to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern relating to the funding and delivery of legal aid services in Nishnawbe Aski territory, and across the province.


“In the spirit of Legal Aid Ontario’s reconciliation initiatives, we look forward to implementing this service agreement and working with Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services to support the delivery of their services, specifically the implementation of the duty counsel program, the certificate program and the staff lawyers program. We will ensure Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services has what it needs to be successful in these areas so they are able to provide legal aid services to their members in a culturally appropriate way. The ongoing dialogue process between the two organizations will ensure that we continue on this path.”

Steve Pengelly, Chair, Legal Aid Ontario

“Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services was created 32 years ago by Nishnawbe Aski Nation Chiefs resolution in 1990. Today, Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services moves closer to its desire for greater authority in the current delivery of legal aid services to clients in Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities and to eventually having a process that permits the diversion of criminal and family matters to a Nishnawbe Aski Nation Justice System.”

Jim Beardy, Chair, NAN Legal

Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services

Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation was created to address the shortcomings in the administration of justice within Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and to improve access to justice for its members. Its mandate is to deliver on a wide range of law-related services including legal, paralegal, public legal education and law reform services to members of NAN. Its mandate also includes promoting community-based delivery systems to ensure the education of non-Indigenous justice personnel about First Nations traditional values and culture in a culturally appropriate manner sensitive to the unique values, customs and traditions of NAN communities.

About Legal Aid Ontario

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) provides legal help in English and French for financially eligible low-income Ontarians, providing high-quality legal services in family law, refugee and immigration law, criminal law, and mental health law. LAO also provides funding to 72 independent legal clinics and seven student legal services organizations throughout the province.