CSALC provides free legal advice primarily through a telephone intake system.
We provide legal advice and referrals primarily in the areas of: immigration, tenant’s rights, employment standards, human rights, employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan, old age security and social assistance (Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program).
In some situations, we may also open a file and legally represent you. However, clients whom we represent must (1) meet our Clinic’s geographic and financial criteria, (2) be unable to communicate fluently in English and speaking Chinese, Vietnamese, Khmer, or Laotian, and (3) have a legal problem in an area of law we practice.
CSALC also provides Public Legal Education in different areas of law, provides support for community groups, and engages in advocacy to bring about law reform and broader change for our communities.
Legal Aid Services
Legal Aid services in Ontario are provided through community legal clinics, legal aid certificates, the duty counsel program and the Family Law Service Centres.
Community Legal Clinics
There are legal clinics throughout Ontario. Most legal clinics serve a defined geographical area. Some legal clinics provide services to those who speak a certain language while some provide service in a specialized area of law. Legal clinic services are free of charge. Legal advice is given usually through a telephone intake system. In some cases, the legal clinic will represent you as your lawyer if you meet the Clinic’s financial criteria and the case falls within an area of law which the Clinic handles.
Legal Aid Certificates
If your legal problem involves an area of law not handled by a legal clinic, you may apply for a legal aid certificate. This is now done over the telephone by calling Legal Aid Ontario’s Client Service Centre at 416-979-1446. Your ability to get a certificate depends on the legal problem you have and whether your meet legal aid’s income and asset criteria. There are some areas of law for which legal aid will not issue certificates so even though you meet the income and asset criteria, you will not be issued a certificate.
If your matter involves criminal law and there is little chance of jail time, you will probably not be issued a legal certificate. You will have to rely on duty counsel at the courthouse if you financially qualify for duty counsel assistance or hire a lawyer yourself. If there is a chance of jail time and you financially qualify for legal aid, you will likely be issued a certificate. Once you obtain a certificate, you then contact a private lawyer who is willing to take legal aid cases and the lawyer will bill legal aid for the legal fee instead of billing you. If your matter involves family law, there are family law duty counsel as well as advice lawyers at the family courthouses who can assist with emergency matters and matters which are not too lengthy or complex.
Family Law Service Centre
For family law matters, you may also be able to get help from a Family Law Service Centre (FLSC) . There are four FLSCs in operation right now, one in North York at 45 Sheppard Street East, one in downtown Toronto at 20 Dundas Street West, one in Newmarket at 17070 Yonge Street and one in Brampton at 205 County Court Boulevard. Each of these centres, except the one downtown, are located close to a family courthouse. These centres are staffed by lawyers and legal workers who, if you financially qualify, may be able to help you with the organization and preparation of family court documents. If your case is more complex, the lawyers at the FLSC may be able to represent you but they will need you to apply for and obtain a legal aid certificate.