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Know Your Rights: Access to Legal Aid

Do I have to pay a lawyer to help me?

If you are living in Ontario and you do not make very much money, you can get a free lawyer to help you with your refugee claim and some other immigration applications. The government of Ontario will pay the lawyer.

What immigration processes can I get a get a free lawyer for?
• Refugee claim
• Refugee appeal or Judicial Review if you got a negative decision
• Humanitarian and Compassionate application
• Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA)
• Deportation from Canada

For other immigration processes, you can contact your local community legal clinic to see if they can help you. To find a legal clinic, see this website.

How do I get a free lawyer?

1. Check to see if your income is low enough to qualify for Legal Aid:
• You can check this website
• If you are receiving Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program or you have no income, you will probably qualify

2. Apply for a legal aid certificate from Legal Aid Ontario:
• You can apply online here or
• You can apply by phone – 1-800-668-8258 — you can ask for an interpreter in your language on the phone

Contact the Centre for Refugee Children if you need help to apply to Legal Aid.

3. Get your client ID and certificate numbers
After you finish applying for legal aid, you will get two numbers:
• A client ID number (CLT) — keep this number safe. This is how Legal Aid Ontario will know who you are
• A certificate number (CE) — you will give this number to a lawyer so they get paid by the government for helping you

4. Find a lawyer
• Only lawyers on the Legal Aid Ontario list can take your certificate number. You can find a lawyer on the Legal Aid Ontario website.
• You can also contact the Centre for Refugee Children or another refugee centre for help to find a lawyer.

If you have a legal aid certificate number, your lawyer cannot ask you to pay them money! If your lawyer asks you for money, contact the Centre for Refugee Children.

How much time can my lawyer spend working on my case and meeting with me?

• Legal Aid Ontario only pays your lawyer for a limited number of hours. They get paid for a maximum of 16 hours to work on your Basis of Claim form and to prepare for your hearing. It could be less if you do not end up having a hearing.
• These 16 hours includes time spent meeting with you and the work that they do on your case when they are not meeting with you.
• This is a very small number of hours that lawyers are paid for. Many lawyers spend more time than this working on refugee cases. If a lawyer spends extra hours working on your case, it means that they are not getting paid for those extra hours.