What if I Can’t Afford a Lawyer?

Do I have to be a Canadian citizen to get legal help?

No. In fact, lawyers and community legal clinics may be able to help you get Canadian citizenship.

What is Legal Aid?

Ontario has a legal aid plan that gives lawyers to people who can't afford one.

Legal Aid involves an application process. They look at things like your sources of income and the type of legal problem you have before deciding whether or not you are eligible for a legal aid certificate.

If you are eligible, Legal Aid will send you a certificate which you can use to get a lawyer. Certificates can be used with private lawyers (not all lawyers accept certificates so ask first). They can also be used with lawyers from special Legal Aid offices.

Legal Aid can help you with:

  • Serious criminal charges
  • Family law
  • Hearings and appeals for Social Assistance Benefits, Employment Insurance and Workers' Safety Insurance
  • Immigration and refugee issues

To apply for Legal Aid and get a certificate, contact the nearest Legal Aid Office. It is important to have all documents about your financial situation and legal problem with you when you apply.

For more information on the Ontario Legal Aid Plan, including who can apply and how to apply, visit the Legal Aid Ontario website.

What if I don’t qualify for Legal Aid?

If you did not qualify for Legal Aid, you can try these options:

Community Legal Clinics

For more information read:

Duty Counsel

Duty Counsel are Legal Aid lawyers. They work in the criminal and family courthouse buildings. They are there to help you through the legal system. They will answer your questions and give basic legal information and advice, but can’t directly represent you in court. Find a duty counsel office near you.

Student Legal Aid Services Societies (SLASS)

SLASS has law school students from Ontario's six law schools. Under the supervision of lawyers, they provide legal services for minor criminal matters and immigration/refugee issues. They will even go to court with you. Find a Student Legal Aid Services Society near you.

What if I am under 18 and charged with a criminal offence?

You should ask the judge to appoint a lawyer for you if you:

  • did not qualify for Legal Aid, and;
  • are a youth (under 18) charged with a criminal offence.

This is your legal right under s.25(4) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Immigration: 
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<p><span style="font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 19px; line-height: 24px;">Do I have to be a Canadian citizen to get legal help?</span></p> <p>No. In fact, lawyers and community legal clinics may be able to help you get Canadian citizenship.</p> <h2>What is Legal Aid?</h2> <p>Ontario has a legal aid plan that gives lawyers to people who can't afford one.</p>