Legal Aid - For Those Who Can't Afford Quebec Lawyers
Natalie Fraser for The Lawyers Weekly
Quebec Duty Counsel
Many provinces provide Quebec duty counsel lawyers for people appearing in court without a lawyer, particularly in the areas of Quebec criminal and family law. Quebec duty counsel will advise criminal clients of their rights and help them in applying for bail. They may assist clients in entering guilty pleas or with sentencing, but for serious matters such as these often request an adjournment to allow the client to seek some form of Quebec legal representation. In Quebec family court, duty counsel assist clients in preparing and reviewing documents, offer representation at motions and hearings, and help negotiate settlements.
By assisting people who appear in Quebec court without a lawyer, duty counsel ensure that anyone involved in a court matter receives legal advice.
Quebec Legal Aid Certificates
People who can't afford to pay a lawyer can apply for representation through Quebec legal aid. Quebec legal aid operates under different authorities from province to province, generally run by either the government or the province's law society.
Applicants for Quebec legal aid must provide proof that they don't have the financial resources to pay a lawyer. As well, the Quebec legal aid plan must cover the matter for which they require assistance; coverage differs among provinces. If these two conditions are met, applicants usually receive a Quebec legal aid certificate. They may then choose a lawyer - one who accepts Quebec legal aid certificates - to act on their behalf. The province pays the lawyer to represent the client, based on a set tariff.
Rather than assigning a lawyer to the client, legal aid certificates provide the benefit of allowing clients to select a lawyer of their choice to act for them.
Access Quebec Lawyers through Legal Aid Programs
Some provinces offer special Quebec legal aid services in addition to providing certificates. These community clinics and programs generally provide assistance to low-income people or special groups of people. They offer help in areas such as tenant rights, government pensions, immigration, and employment and human rights. Programs for special groups include services for aboriginals, seniors, and the disabled.
Lawyers and legal workers at community clinics and legal aid programs provide information and legal advice in their particular area of law, and some offer legal representation. Clinics may also offer services in the area of public service law, by engaging in test cases, and providing public legal education and community awareness.
Quebec Student Legal Aid Clinics
Quebec legal aid societies at many law schools across Canada offer assistance to people who can't afford a lawyer. Students, supervised by practising lawyers, provide representation to clients in areas such as minor criminal or traffic charges, small claims court matters, tenant issues, and workers compensation.
Although students cannot represent people on major legal issues, they offer valuable legal assistance to people who otherwise could not retain a lawyer, and assist clients with issues that often have a significant impact on their lives.
People who cannot afford the services of a lawyer can apply for representation through legal aid. Legal aid operates under different authorities from province to province, generally run by either the government or the province's law society.
Applicants for Quebec legal aid must show legal aid officials that they don't have the financial resources to pay a lawyer. As well, the legal aid plan must cover the matter for which they require assistance, since coverage differs from province to province. If these two conditions are met, applicants generally receive a Quebec legal aid certificate. They may then choose a lawyer who accepts legal aid certificates to act on their behalf.
Legal aid societies at various law schools across Canada offer another option. These societies set up legal aid clinics run by law students and supervised by lawyers. The students act on behalf of those who cannot afford a lawyer
Natalie Fraser practised law in Whitby, Ontario for seventeen years and is now a freelance legal writer. She often writes for The Lawyers Weekly.