Legal Aid Program Evaluation, Final Report

1. Introduction

The Department of Justice's (Justice) Legal Aid Program (LAP) manages the federal contribution to legal aid in Canada. The LAP has five key components: base funding for adult and youth criminal legal aid services in the provinces, and criminal and civil legal aid services in the territories; funding for immigration and refugee (I&R) legal aid services; funding for Court-Ordered Counsel in Federal Prosecutions (COCFP); funding for legal aid in Public Security and Anti-Terrorism (PSAT) cases; and secretariat and funding support for the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Permanent Working Group on Legal Aid (FPT PWG), which brings together representatives from provincial/territorial (P/T) governments, legal aid plans, and legal aid delivery entities with federal LAP officials for policy, research, and information sharing activities.[2] The LAP's goal is to "enable the provinces and territories and their legal aid plans to deliver criminal legal aid (and criminal and civil legal aid in the territories) to economically disadvantaged persons facing the likelihood of incarceration, and for youth pursuant to the Youth Criminal Justice Act,through the provision of contribution funding" (Department of Justice Canada, 2007).

1.1. Context of the Evaluation

The federal contribution to legal aid in Canada has been the subject of previous evaluations in 2001 and 2006. However, neither evaluation considered the impact of the LAP. To support an evaluation of the impact of the LAP, Justice developed an Accountability, Risk and Audit Framework (ARAF) in 2007 and commissioned an Impact Evaluation Design in 2009.

The evaluation of the LAP was conducted between September 2010 and April 2011. In accordance with the Treasury Board Policy on Evaluation, the evaluation of the LAP addresses the core issues of relevance and performance.

The evaluation covers the time period of 2006-07 to 2010-11, as the previous evaluation was completed in 2005-06. Since the fiscal year 2007-08 marked a new mandate for the LAP, the focus of the evaluation was the program impact over the years 2007-08 to 2010-11. However, this scope does not provide a sufficient time period in which to assess trends. For that reason, 2006-07 was used to represent a baseline for data, and in some instances, 2005-06 data or earlier is used as a reference, which is outside the scope of this evaluation but allows us to see trends over time.

1.2. Structure of Report

This report contains five sections, including the introduction. Section 2 provides an overview of the LAP, Section 3 describes the methodology for the evaluation, Section 4 summarizes the key findings, Section 5 presents the conclusions, and Section 6 presents the recommendations and management response. References are provided, as well as a glossary of key terms to aid the reader.

[2] The legal aid system consists of provincial legal aid plans and territorial legal aid delivery entities. For brevity's sake, they will be referred to collectively as "legal aid plans" for the remainder of the report.

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