Legal Aid Eligibility and Coverage in Canada

Inventory of Legal Aid Plans in Canada (continued)

Inventory of Legal Aid Plans in Canada (continued)

Saskatchewan

The legal aid plan in Saskatchewan has been in existence since 1974. The Legal Aid Act (1983) makes the Legal Aid Commission responsible for the delivery of legal aid throughout the province. The plan uses a salaried staff model for most of its applicants.

Financial Eligibility

Financial eligibility relies primarily on a test of an applicant's income and assets. The income cut-offs and assets test used to determine financial eligibility are based on those used by Saskatchewan Social Services. Applicants are eligible if they meet the following criteria:

  • they are receiving income from social assistance;
  • their financial resources are at social assistance levels;
  • the case merits coverage;
  • the costs of obtaining the services of a private lawyer would reduce their financial resources to social assistance levels.

But other factors are also considered, such as the following:

  • the urgency of the situation and the nature of the service needed;
  • the costs of the proceedings;
  • a determination of whether a reasonable person who had to pay a lawyer would spend their own money to advance the case.

Further, while not expressly stated in their regulations, the plan also takes into account the size of the community. Criteria are interpreted more liberally in Northern Saskatchewan than in Southern Saskatchewan.

Income and Asset Guidelines[11]
Family size Net Annual Income Max ($) Assets Test Max amount claimant can have ($)
Single 9,420 < 1,500
Couple without children 11,400 3,000
Family with one child 12,300 3,500
Family with two children 15,000 3,500
Family with three children 17,700 3,500
Family with four children 20,400 3,500
Family with five children 23,100 3,500
Family with six children 25,800 3,500
Family with seven children 27,900 3,500
Family with eight children 30,420 3,500
Expanded Eligibility through Contributions

This is not available under the Saskatchewan plan.

Income Definition

The Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission uses an applicant's net monthly or net yearly income when calculating financial eligibility. They follow a similar process to that used by Saskatchewan Social Services. The Canada Child Tax Benefit, the Saskatchewan Child Benefit and the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement are not included in the calculation of income.

Family Definition

The definition of family encompasses single-parent or two-parent families, and it includes children and dependents. The size of the family is critical in determining financial eligibility for legal aid.

Assets Test

An applicant can keep a certain amount of liquid assets - such as $1,500 for an individual, $3,000 for a family of two, and so on. An applicant can also keep their home, personal property up to $500, and wedding and family rings.

Applicants are not required to dispose of their principal place of residence nor any assets necessary to maintain their livelihood. If it is deemed necessary that an applicant must dispose of other assets, they should not take a loss greater than 20% of the pre-tax value of those assets.

Client Contributions

If the applicant is not receiving social assistance, they may be asked to contribute to the costs of the legal services provided. However, the required contribution should not reduce the applicant's financial resources to a level where they would be eligible to receive social assistance.

Substantive Coverage

Legal services are provided if the requested service falls within the range of services provided by the Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission and if the matter has professional merit.

In criminal matters, coverage is provided to adults charged with federal indictable offences. In the case of summary convictions and provincial offences, coverage is provided only if there is a likelihood of imprisonment or a loss of livelihood. Advice and information may be provided to anyone about a wide range of matters if it involves no more than a brief interview or phone call.

Criminal Appeals

Appeals initiated by the Crown are covered. Appeals initiated by the accused are covered only if the case has merit.

Duty Counsel

Duty counsel services (docket court) are available to persons financially eligible for legal aid, usually through staff lawyers in many provincial courts by prior arrangement.

R. v. Brydges after-hours duty counsel services are provided by the Commission through a contract with a private lawyer, and staff lawyers provide the services during regular office hours.

Coverage and Eligibility Reviews

An applicant who is denied legal aid services can register a complaint with the chief executive officer within 20 days following the decision of the area director to deny services or require payment.

Application Fee

No application fee is required for legal aid services in Saskatchewan.

Sources


[11] Effective March 1998.

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