A Study on Legal Aid and Official Languages in Canada

Appendix D - INTERVIEW GUIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS, ADVOCACY GROUPS AND FAMILY SERVICES

Legal Aid and Official Languages in Canada
Community Organizations, Advocacy Groups and Family Services

The Department of Justice Canada has recently launched a nation-wide study on the use of both official languages in the provision of legal aid services. The objectives of this study are:

  • To identify the policies and practices that are currently in place within legal aid plans regarding the provision of legal aid services in both official languages.
  • To identify the difficulties that clients may encounter in accessing legal aid services in their official language of choice.
  • To determine the increased level of service that may be required in order to ensure access to legal aid services in both official languages, and the cost of these increased levels of service.

The following questions cover issues relating to the legal aid services currently offered in the official language of the minority, the need for these services, the challenges to the provision of these services and possible initiatives and their associated costs.

Background

  • 1. Please provide a brief description of the organization in which you work or the group with which you are involved (what services do you provide, are you involved in advocacy, etc).
  • 2. Has your organization or group ever been involved or collaborated with the legal aid services of your province? If so, please describe these activities.

Legal aid services offered in the official language of the minority

Legal aid may cover a range of services relating to civil, family and criminal matters. While not excluding the first two, the focus of this research is on issues pertaining to criminal matters. This may include the following services:

  • Full representation in court.
  • Brydges representation. Following a Supreme Court decision, all accused must be informed of the right to counsel immediately upon arrest and all persons detained have the right to immediate legal counsel regardless of financial circumstance. This has resulted in legal aid plans establishing a 24-hour, on-call service for arrestees requiring legal assistance and representation.
  • Duty counsel. This service is provided to individuals who are going to court but do not have a lawyer; lawyers at the courthouse may represent the individual for his/her court appearance. Duty counsel provides short-term legal assistance.
  • Legal information (through call centres, clinics, internet, etc).
  • 3. To your knowledge, are there any legal aid services and resources that are currently available in the official language of the minority? If so, how did you become aware that these services were offered in both French and English?
  • 4. In your opinion, what are the most significant gaps in the range of legal aid services and resources available in the official language of the minority?
  • 5. In general, how would you describe the capacity of the legal aid services plan in your province to provide services in both official languages?
  • 6. Have any of your clients ever required legal aid services? If yes, are you aware of their experiences in terms of receiving legal aid services in the official language of the minority?
  • 7. Are you aware of the procedure that must be undertaken by a client in order to obtain legal aid services in the language of the minority? If yes, please describe. In your opinion, how accessible are these services? Please explain.

Need for legal aid services in the official language of the minority

  • 8. What are the main issues with which your clients may require the assistance of legal aid services (child and family services, divorce, custody, child support, criminal matters, etc)?
  • 9. How would you describe the need for services in the language of the minority in the following areas:
    • Brydges representation?
    • Duty counsel?
    • Advice and assistance?
    • Representation in criminal matters?
    • Representation in family and civil matters?
    • Information requests/Information line?
    • Any other areas?

Of all these various areas, can you identify those that should be addressed in priority?

  • 10. How can clients be best informed of the availability of services in the official language of the minority?
  • 11. In your opinion, what importance do clients place on receiving services in their official language of choice? What do you think is the importance of actively offering services in the official language of the minority?
  • 12. Can you recommend a strategy or avenues to be pursued to ensure a greater access for legal aid clients to services in their official language of choice?
  • 13. In what ways would you say the provision of legal aid services in the language of the minority might be beneficial to your clients (understanding of procedures, communication between lawyer and client, results of case, etc)? What are the consequences, if any, of not providing legal aid services in both official languages?

Challenges to the provision of legal aid services in both official languages

  • 14. Based on your experience, what are the barriers that may prevent the provision or expansion of legal aid services in the official language of choice (systemic barriers, linguistic barriers, financial barriers, etc)? Which ones do you feel should be addressed in priority?
  • 15. In your opinion, what changes can be made in order to ensure that legal aid services be available in the official language of choice?

Conclusion

  • 16. Do you have any other comments?

Your participation is greatly appreciated!

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