What if you can’t afford a lawyer in Canada? While the idea of having someone on your side sounds like a good thing, it turns out not to be quite as great as you’d hope. I’m here to tell you that the biggest obstacle facing people who can’t afford a lawyer is the expense. The cost of hiring a lawyer is something that many people don’t think about and it could be holding them back from seeking justice.
You’ve been arrested and sentenced to six months in jail. You can’t afford a lawyer. What do you do? The Canadian government has established a legal aid program and provides free advice for people who cannot afford legal help. This is called civil legal aid.
What if you can’t afford a lawyer in Canada?
If you can’t afford a lawyer in Canada, there are still ways to get legal help. Many people are eligible for legal aid or can apply for funding from Legal Services Ontario (formerly the Law Society).
If you can’t afford a lawyer, the first thing is to contact a public defender. The public defender will take your case and give you advice on how to proceed with your case. You may be able to go through the court process virtually free from legal fees by using this system. However, if the case involves serious charges or if there are many other people involved in the legal process, you may need a lawyer.
You may also be able to get help from a community legal clinic or public legal education program.
There are many things you can do if you can’t afford a lawyer.
1. You can hire a paralegal to work with you. A paralegal is a law clerk who has been licensed as a lawyer in some other country but has not yet been admitted to practice in Canada. In most provinces, they are allowed to provide legal advice and representation to clients under the supervision of a lawyer who is licensed to practice law in Canada.
2. You can hire court-appointed counsel (CAC). Court-appointed counsel is an attorney appointed by the court for the express purpose of representing people who cannot afford lawyers but who still need legal advice or representation in court proceedings. Court-appointed counsel may provide services on an hourly basis or on a fixed rate basis depending on their experience and qualifications.
3. You can make submissions without an attorney at all – although this may mean that any decision made by the court will be based solely on your evidence, arguments, and submissions without any additional analysis or consideration by an experienced lawyer (this could be very risky!).
One would think that the system is above all else, fair and just. The reality is that it’s not always so. And when you can’t afford a lawyer to help get you through a case, your best bet is to ask publicly for the assistance you need. We live in an age of openness, and chances are someone out there will have some free advice for you. There’s no harm in asking for help, and sometimes you may even find that you’re better off as a result!+