Legal Aid

Legal Aid Explained


What is Legal Aid?

Legal Aid is legal advice and representation by a lawyer for people who cannot afford to pay for such services.

Criminal Legal Aid is publicly funded legal assistance for economically disadvantaged adults and youth who;

  • meet the program eligibility requirements;
  • are accused of serious criminal offences;
  • are at significant risk of being incarcerated


Who can get Legal Aid?

Legal Aid is provided:

  • if you are financially eligible
  • if you are on income support


What will Legal Aid pay for?

  1. Criminal and Youth Criminal Justice Act Charges:
    • serious (indictable) offences under the Criminal Code and other Federal laws
    • less serious (summary) offences when you might go to jail or lose your way of making a living
    • some appeals of court decisions

    Family and Civil Cases:

    • child support, custody or access cases
    • division of property and divorce, when related to child support, custody or access
    • spousal support
    • emergency restraining orders
    • child welfare matters
    • some problems with government services

  2. Wrongful dismissal cases in certain circumstances at the discretion of the Executive Director.


What will Legal Aid not pay for?

Because Legal Aid funds are limited, Legal Aid usually will not give you a lawyer for:

  • Cases where you are being sued or want to sue someone
  • Things you could do on your own or where services are available through other agencies
  • Simple divorces and hearings about not obeying child maintenance orders
  • Child support default hearings
  • Buying and selling houses, libel or slander, wills and matters dealing with elections
  • First offence impaired driving (if no other charges), first offence careless driving and consuming liquor by a minor (if no other charges)
  • Human Rights and WSCC matters

Note - if you feel an exemption should be made in your case, please ask in writing, for special consideration.


What if you are denied service?

If you are denied Legal Aid, you may appeal this decision by writing to the Legal Services Board.


Which lawyer will you get?

If you are approved, a lawyer from the Legal Aid Panel of lawyers will be assigned to represent you.

If the maximum sentence for the offence charged against you is life imprisonment you may choose a lawyer residing in the NWT to represent you.


Who pays for Legal Aid?

Legal Aid in the Northwest Territories is provided by the Legal Services Board of the Northwest Territories pursuant to the Legal Services Act. Legal Aid is funded by both the GNWT and the Government of Canada.

Depending on your ability to pay, you may be required to pay some or all of the costs of your case. If you receive money or property at the end of your case, you will be required to pay costs towards your case. However, you may appeal the decision about how much you have to pay.


Legal Aid and your rights?

As an applicant you have the following rights:

  • to apply for Legal Aid
  • to a fair consideration of your application
  • to a fair reading of the Legal Services Act, Regulations, and Policies as they concern your case.
  • to appeal if you are denied Legal Aid
  • to see information in your file in the Legal Aid office and in your lawyer's possession, as long as this will not harm anyone else
  • to have information you give to any Legal Aid office or lawyer kept confidential.
  • to receive full and proper representation from your legal aid lawyer within the guidelines for legal aid
  • to complain to the Legal Services Board or the Law Society if you are not pleased with the service or behaviour of your Legal Aid lawyer


Your Responsibilities.

You also have responsibilities, these responsibilities are:

  • to give complete and true information to Legal Aid regarding your financial situation
  • to keep Legal Aid informed of any changes in your situation, including a change of address
  • to repay some or all of the cost of your case if you are able to do so
  • to treat Legal Aid staff politely and fairly


This page last reviewed: October 2007