Pro Bono Resources in Canada

The CBA’s Pro Bono Committee raises awareness amongst the profession of pro bono practices. If you are a lawyer, paralegal or law student looking to get involved, this information will help you get started.

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Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC)

PBSC is a national pro bono organization with a chapter in every Canadian law school. PBSC provides legal services without charge to organizations and individuals in need. Each year, about 1,600 law student volunteers provide approximately 140,000 hours of free legal services to between 400 and 500 public interest and other community organizations, pro bono lawyers, courts and tribunals across the country. PBSC also runs a Public Interest Articling Fellowship Program that provides students with opportunities to article at public interest organizations.

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Access Pro Bono (APB) Summary Legal Advice Program

Pro bono lawyers provide summary legal advice to low- and modest-income individuals on a wide range of legal issues, including family, immigration, criminal, civil and poverty law (such as debt, employment, welfare, and housing). APB operates an extensive network of over 100 summary legal advice clinics throughout the province. Volunteer lawyers provide up to a half-hour of free legal advice to clients and additional appointments may be available. APB also operates the following thematic programs:

  • APB Civil Chambers Program: twice a week, volunteer lawyers provide legal assistance and representation to unrepresented low- and modest-income litigants appearing in civil chambers in Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
  • APB Roster Program: pairs volunteer lawyers with incoming cases. Insurance and disbursement coverage is made available to roster lawyers.
  • APB Paralegal Program: a weekly evening clinic at the Vancouver Justice Access Centre at the downtown Vancouver courthouse staffed by senior paralegals to support for self-represented litigants who need assistance in preparing court documents.
  • APB Children's Lawyer Program: deals with high conflict custody and access cases, provides a “voice to children” ages 10 through 18, in court hearings in Victoria and Nanaimo Provincial Court but may extend to other locations and levels of court in the future.
  • APB Wills Clinic Project: a weekly Will and Representation Agreement preparation clinic at the Vancouver Justice Access Centre for low-income seniors (ages 55+) and people with terminal illnesses.

Law Students Legal Advice Program

University of British Columbia law students provide free legal advice, drafting of legal documents and legal representation at clinics throughout Greater Vancouver. Legal representation is not guaranteed.

The People's Law School

This long-serving not-for-profit society located in Vancouver provides information about people's rights and responsibilities under the law through lectures and courses. Brochures, manuals and legal information are available in various languages (Japanese, Hindi, Urdu, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, etc.).

Legal Services Society of BC (LSS)

LSS provides free legal services, ranging from legal information and advice to legal representation in criminal, family, child apprehension and immigration law cases. Clients must qualify under financial eligibility guidelines and have a legal issue that is covered, and services are offered through in-person and call centre services. Applications for legal aid are taken, lawyer referrals are made and legal information and publications are also provided around the province by 22 private lawyers (Local Agents) on contract with LSS. These services are offered in nearly 50 locations at offices, community centres, courts and First Nations’ Band facilities.

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Pro Bono Law Alberta (PBLA)

PBLA works with the legal community to encourage pro bono service, which in turn, benefits low income Albertans. They are not a direct service provider.  PBLA supports the following programs:

  • Civil Claims Duty Counsel (CCDC) provides legal assistance to Albertans engaged in civil proceedings before the Provincial Court in partnership with Pro Bono Students Canada. CCDC now runs four days per week in Calgary and three days per week in Edmonton.
  • Queen’s Bench Amicus Project assists self-represented litigants with civil (non-family) matters in Queen’s Bench proceedings. It provides amicus curiae assistance for applications or appearances in Master’s Chambers, QB Justice Chambers, and Bankruptcy Chambers. It also runs ‘Storefront Legal Services’ in the courthouse, providing 30 minutes of free legal advice to self-represented litigants for Queen’s Bench civil matters. The project runs three days a week in Calgary.
  • Volunteer Lawyer Services (VLS) receives files for individual clients from authorized pro bono providers in Alberta and Legal Aid Alberta, and matches volunteer lawyers to pro bono files. VLS also assists non-profit organizations and charities.
  • Legal Grounds Advice Clinics are one-day events for people to receive free legal advice and information in a friendly, approachable environment over a cup of coffee. Local law firms provide volunteer lawyers who meet individuals for confidential, pre-booked 30-minute appointments to assist with legal advice. Legal Grounds Advice Clinics have been held in Calgary, Lethbridge, Crowsnest Pass, Medicine Hat, Brooks and Fort McMurray.
  • Centre for Newcomers Legal Clinic offers free and confidential advice and assistance on a variety of legal issues related to Immigration and Family Law on the second Wednesday of every month.
  • Online Resource Bank links to relevant websites, court forms, automatically updated legislation and other resources available only online. The resource bank is a member-only site for volunteer lawyers, articling students, law students and members of legal clinics and organizations.

Calgary Legal Guidance

Calgary Legal Guidance is a charitable organization that provides free legal assistance, program support, information, advocacy and representation to economically and socially vulnerable individuals who do not qualify for legal aid. Through their multidisciplinary approach of connecting clients to a team of specialized lawyers, social workers, advocates and community services they offer support in a comprehensive, holistic and compassionate way. The organization offers legal advice clinics and various programs (Homeless Outreach Program, Social Benefits Advocacy Program, Family Law Program, Immigration Law Program, Elder Law Program and Student Indigenous Program).

The Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic

In Red Deer, The Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic provides assistance to people throughout Central Alberta who do not qualify for legal aid but experience a barrier to legal help because of poverty, mental or physical disability, education, language or cultural barriers in civil, family and criminal law.

Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre (CLERC)

CLERC improves the lives of children and youth 19 years of age and under through legal services and support. CLERC provides direct legal services, advice, information and representation to children and youth in civil law matters, including family law. CLERC provides public legal education through their website www.youthlaw.ca, presentations, workshops and seminars.  In addition, CLERC trains lawyers to represent children and youth.

The Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC)

ECLC provides free legal help to low income people in the Edmonton area including:

  • Information and referral for all areas of law
  • Summary legal advice by volunteers lawyers for all areas of law except criminal at daytime and evening legal clinics
  • Additional client follow-up including legal advice and representation by a staff team including four staff lawyers and an immigration consultant
  • Weekly family law public legal education sessions, and monthly sessions on a variety of civil and immigration law topics
  • Assistance with social benefits appeals
  • Waivers of fees to provide for free filing of court documents
  • Legal information and advice at annual events such as Homeless Connect and Advice-a-thon

The ECLC relies on support from the Edmonton legal community, including pro bono service from over 200 volunteer lawyers and over 50 law students annually.

Grande Prairie Legal Guidance (GPLG)

GPLG provides free legal help to low income people in the Grande Prairie area including:

  • Information and referral for all areas of law
  • Summary legal advice by volunteer lawyers in all areas of law at lunchtime and evening legal clinics
  • Monthly public legal education sessions
  • Additional client support by staff Program Coordinator

GPLG relies on pro bono support from Grande Prairie lawyers to provide client service.

Lethbridge Legal Guidance

Lethbridge Legal Guidance began serving the community of Lethbridge and surrounding area in 2007 believing all Albertans, regardless of income, have a right to full and equal access to justice. With the intent of providing ongoing and expanded legal services and programs to those individuals most in need of legal assistance, Lethbridge Legal Guidance seeks to ensure legal services to those who are most in need.

Student Legal Assistance - Calgary (SLA)

SLA is a non-profit legal clinic through which law students provide legal services to students and low income Calgarians. Located within the Faculty of Law premises in Murray Fraser Hall on the University of Calgary main campus, SLA offers law students the opportunity to develop their advocacy skills while providing legal information and representation in court, in the areas of family, civil and criminal law. SLA also provides specialized legal services to clients in the Tax Court of Canada through its Tax Court of Canada Project, and to inmates and others seeking assistance with correctional facility or parole issues and/or wrongful convictions through its Criminal Justice Clinical project.

Student Legal Services - Edmonton

The University of Alberta chapter of Pro Bono Students Canada offers legal assistance in Edmonton through three main initiatives. Civil Claims Duty Counsel is a drop-in legal clinic, located in the Provincial Court that provides summary legal advice and other assistance, free of charge, to litigants and the public on their small claims matters. The Alberta Human Rights Commission Project sees supervised students assist qualified applicants with their matters in Commission. The organization also engages in short term legal research projects in support of local non-profit, public interest and community organizations.

Women's Centre Legal Advice Clinic

The Women's Centre Legal Advice Clinic is a program of the Women's Centre of Calgary funded by Pro Bono Law Alberta. Volunteer female lawyers provide free legal advice to women on a one-to-one basis in various areas of law. Drop-in clinics in family law and civil law are offered on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

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Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan (PBLS)

PBLS improves access to justice in Saskatchewan by creating, facilitating and promoting opportunities for lawyers to provide high-quality pro bono legal services to people and organizations of limited means. PBLS oversees 10 free legal clinics across the province in Regina, Prince Albert, Swift Current, Estevan, Moose Jaw, North Battleford, La Ronge, Weyburn, Yorkton and Meadow Lake. PBLS also assists clients of limited means by matching them directly with lawyers for full representation pro bono assistance. These include:

  • Seniors Legal Assistance Panel Program
  • Immigration & Refugee Panel Program
  • Solicitors Panel Program
  • General Panel Program
  • Residential Tenancies Panel Program

Community Legal Assistance Services for Saskatoon Inner City (CLASSIC)

CLASSIC offers pro bono legal services through two major programs, the walk in advocacy program which is a student based program supervised by CLASSIC staff lawyers and the free legal clinic.

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The Manitoba Bar Association (MBA) Pro Bono Project

MBA has a Pro Bono Project in partnership with the Public Interest Law Centre, and members can sign up to participate in one of three ways:

  1. Accept a legal aid certificate and arrange for their fees to be directed to the Public Interest Law Centre;
  2. Make a donation by cash or cheque
  3. Join the Centre’s pro bono panel of lawyers who work on public interest cases.

The Legal Help Centre

The Legal Help Centre operates a drop-in clinic where law students screen problems and arrange appointments with a volunteer lawyers for advice or referrals. The drop-in clinic is available to people with family incomes under $50,000. The Centre also offers free legal information workshops to all members of the public.

The Law Society of Manitoba Family Law Access program

Clients who do not qualify for legal aid can receive legal assistance with family law matters at a reduced cost. Lawyers sign up to take clients at a reduced fee and the Law Society pays the lawyers directly, and is responsible for collecting from the client, usually through a payment plan. There is often a waiting list.

Community Legal Education Association (CLEA)

CLEA is a charitable organization that offers a free legal information call-in line, as well as lawyer referral line, answered by two staff lawyers.

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Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO)

PBLO promotes access to justice in Ontario by creating and promoting opportunities for lawyers to provide free legal services to people of limited means. PBLO develops projects individually for various law firms, legal departments and law associations, and administers three streams of projects in house:

  • Law Help Ontario helps low income unrepresented litigants with civil, non family matters in Toronto and Ottawa.
  • Volunteer Lawyers Services helps charitable organizations with corporate law issues.
  • The Child Advocacy Project provides legal service and advice to low income families experiencing difficulty with the education sector, particularly special education.

PBLO also operates the Niagara - Non-profit Charities Project to develop, implement and coordinate strategies to provide legal services and resources to non-profit start-ups, non-profits and charitable community based organizations.

Justice for Children and Youth

Justice for Children and Youth is a speciality legal clinic which provides legal services for young people under 18 and homeless youth under 25 in Ontario. They also provide basic, understandable legal information for parents.

Pro Bono Students Canada – Ontario Programs

  • Appeals Assistance Project Crown Wardship Pilot Program: volunteers assist unrepresented, low income litigants appealing crown wardship no access orders.
  • Civil Court Project (Toronto): a Pro Bono Law Ontario self-help centre at the Superior Court in Toronto to assists low-income, unrepresented civil litigants.
  • Duty Counsel for Law Society Discipline Committee Hearings: volunteer lawyers assist unrepresented solicitors at Law Society Discipline Committee Hearings.
  • Eviction Prevention Project (Western): assists low-income renters facing eviction proceedings.
  • Family Law Project - relies on volunteers from all six Ontario law schools to provide services to unrepresented litigants in Windsor, Kingston, Ottawa, London, Toronto, North York, Milton and Brampton.
  • Federal Court Assistance Project: provides low-income, unrepresented litigants in the Federal Court with the assistance of counsel on matters with a reasonable prospect of success.
  • Health Law Student Advocacy Project (Toronto, Osgoode, Ottawa): helps unrepresented complainants by providing legal information, offering assistance with written submissions, and appearing on their behalf before the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB). The HPARB reviews decisions made by the Complaints Committees of Ontario’s health professions Colleges.
  • Immigration and Refugee Detention Centre Project (Osgoode, Toronto): volunteer students go to provincial detention centres to present information to detainees on the immigration and refugee law process in Canada.
  • Judicial Plea: The Appeals Assistance Project: matches volunteers to low-income, unrepresented litigants for civil appeals. Services range from brief advice to full representation, including attendance at hearings.
  • Justice Ontario: a website and phone hotline provides Ontarians with a one-stop entry point for accessing legal resources and basic information on the most common justice-related topics. A project of the Ministry of the Attorney General, it also provides easy access to legal resources such as lawyer referral services and family law information centres.
  • Not-for-Profit Corporate Law Project (Toronto): addresses the vital business needs of non-profit organizations in Ontario in the areas of incorporation, charitable status registration, corporate maintenance and governance, and others.
  • Ontario Securities Commission Litigation Assistance Program: offers volunteer litigation services to unrepresented respondents appearing in enforcement proceedings for the Ontario Securities Commission.
  • Rural Entrepreneurial Legal Handbook Project (Queen’s): helps provide legal information to rural communities by researching and developing legal resources for rural communities in Eastern Ontario. Student volunteers are working to produce a legal handbook for entrepreneurs starting small, rural businesses in the region.
  • Small Claims Court Project (Toronto): provides general procedural and legal information enabling these individuals to complete the court process as independently as possible. In addition to providing information, a duty counsel lawyer can attend hearings or settlement conferences, help clients identify the legal issues related to their case, provide information on the rules and procedures of small claims court and answer general legal questions.
  • Tax Court of Canada Advocacy Project: offers representation to appellants in the informal procedure, with claims under $25,000. This project also operates in Quebec and is a pilot project in Nova Scotia.
  • Wills Project (Toronto, Osgoode): volunteers draft wills and powers of attorney for low-income clients.
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Pro Bono Quebec

Pro Bono Quebec provides free legal representation to low-income litigants ineligible for legal aid who are involved in cases of public interest or cases where permanent harm could be suffered. Pro Bono Quebec launched a program where a community organization is teamed with a law firm that will provide free legal services to its members/clientele. They also provide free legal assistance to unrepresented litigants, regardless of income, in the following courts :

  • Family Matters at the Superior Court in Montreal
  • Criminal cases at the Municipal Court in Montreal
  • Cases involving mental health issues at the Court of Appeal in Montreal and Quebec City

Centres de justice de proximité

These walk-in clinics provide free legal information to the public in any area of the law. Centres are available in Bas-Saint-LaurentQuebecMontreal, the Outaouais region, GaspĂ©sie-ĂŽles-de-la-Madeleine and in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean.

Referral Services of the Quebec City Bar

Volunteer lawyers provide 30 minutes of free legal advice on a wide range of legal issues in Quebec City.

The Young Bar Association of Montreal

Founded in 1898, this non-profit organization represents more than 4,200 lawyers with 10 years or less of practice, registered in the Montreal area. Their members offer:

The Mile-End Legal Clinic

The Mile-End Legal Clinic offers community members free legal information and advice about their rights. They screen clients during a free drop-in session every Wednesday from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at their Mile-End location and Monday from 6:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. in Little Burgundy.

Clinique juridique Juripop

Juripop offers a range of legal services to people facing financial hardship who do not qualify for legal aid. The organization is a co-operative; qualifying individuals join the organization for a small fee and then have access to legal assistance. Services are offered for individuals, non-profits and small businesses.

Just Solutions

Just Solutions is a program of the Montreal City Mission which provides free legal information, advocacy, and accompaniment to vulnerable individuals in the domain of refugee and immigration law.

Le Mouvement Action ChĂ´mage (MAC)

MAC of Montreal is a community education group that aims to inform citizens about the laws surrounding unemployment. MAC offers assistance to individuals via drop-in sessions and a telephone help line, as well as supporting organizations and unions.

Juris Référence

Juris Référence is testing a pilot project, the Small Claims File Preparation Assistance Service, which enables residents of Montreal, Quebec City, Montmagny and the Beauce to access a lawyer a reasonable fixed fee. The fixed fees range from $150 to $250, depending on the services.

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There is no pro bono organization in P.E.I. With approximately 150 lawyers in private practice across the province, most pro bono work is done by individual lawyers on an ad hoc basis. A majority of firms in the province offer some level of legal services without pay or at discounted rates.

The Community Legal Information Association of Prince Edward Island provides a lawyer referral service. Anyone can contact the organization and be provided with contact information for a lawyer who practices in the relevant area of law. Lawyers in the program provide 45 minute consultations free or for a nominal fee.

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Dalhousie Legal Aid Service (DLAS)

DLAS, founded in 1970, is the oldest clinical law program in Canada and remains the only community law clinic in Nova Scotia. In addition to providing legal aid, it provides pro bono legal services to clients not granted legal aid certificates if they meet a certain income cut-off. DLAS also offers community outreach, advocacy workshops, legal information sessions, lobbying and test case litigation that focus on the injustices that affect persons with low incomes in Nova Scotia.

Halifax Refugee Clinic (HRC)

HRC is a not-for-profit, non-governmental, community-based organization funded by the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia and private donations. The Clinic provides no-cost legal and settlement services to refugee claimants in Nova Scotia who are unable to afford their own private lawyer. In addition to providing in-house settlement services, the Clinic relies on their roster of volunteer counsel for pro bono legal services to help refugee claimants navigate the claim process as well as offer legal representation before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia

The Immigrant Services Association has a permanent Pro Bono Law Student volunteer position. Student volunteers provide legal services including, for example, a series of free legal information workshops for immigrants.

Nova Scotia Court of Appeal Judicial Mediation Program

The Judicial Mediation Program is a voluntary program available to litigants who have commenced an appeal in a civil or family dispute in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. Litigants must submit a joint request for mediation which will be reviewed and, if appropriate, mediated by a judge of the Court of Appeal on a free, confidential and without prejudice basis. Litigants who are self-represented or cannot afford a lawyer have access to the services of a lawyer free of charge. A list of lawyers who have volunteered to provide their services for this program is maintained by the Canadian Bar Association’s Nova Scotia Branch.

reachAbility

reachAbility is a non-profit organization that improves access to justice, equality, and human rights for people living with disabilities and for those within their support systems. reachAbility’s Lawyer Referral Service connects persons with disabilities to its 140 volunteer lawyers who provide free one-hour consultations. Through reachAbility’s Community Outreach Initiative, volunteer lawyers also conduct free seminars on legal topics that are relevant to persons with disabilities.

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Small Claims Legal Assistance Clinic

CBA-NL and the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (PLIAN) have launched a Small Claims Legal Assistance Clinic in cooperation with the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This offers summary legal advice, on a pro bono basis, to self-represented litigants either contemplating starting a Small Claims Court matter or with an ongoing Small Claims Court matter. Clinic clients meet with a volunteer lawyer who can provide basic legal assistance and guidance. The maximum time for each appointment is 20 minutes.

Clinics are held monthly at the Supreme Court, General Division, 309 Duckworth Street, St. John's.

To sign up as a volunteer for the Small Claims Legal Assistance Clinic or if you have any questions, please contact CBA-NL by email: cba-nl@cba.org or phone (709) 579-5783 or PLIAN at (709) 722-4745.

Court of Appeal Legal Assistance Clinic

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador - Court of Appeal has launched the Court of Appeal Legal Assistance Clinic, offering assistance to litigants without a lawyer who wish to have some legal advice about their appeal. The Clinic is located at the Supreme Court, General Division, 309 Duckworth Street, St. John's and offers an initial free 30 minute appointment with volunteer lawyers who practice in Newfoundland and Labrador. Depending on the nature of the issues involved and the needs that are identified, further assistance may be available.

For more information, please visit the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador - Court of Appeal website.

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Every Tuesday afternoon, a free walk-in clinic is offered in Yellowknife, where members of the public can get basic legal help and information, without having to be screened for legal aid eligibility. People can call collect from anywhere in the Northwest Territories to obtain free legal information and basic advice on a variety of legal issues.

Lawyers are now flying into smaller isolated communities about once a month, usually with the Court circuit, to offer the same basic legal advice and information program as is available to people in Yellowknife. 

During law week, CBA Branch Young Lawyers run a public legal education booth; lawyers also volunteered at the YWCA “Yes We Care” day to offer a free legal advice and information clinic.

In future, Northwest Territories Branch Young Lawyers would like to run a call-in day. Legal Aid NWT is considering a partnership with local communities to assist elders in preparing wills and powers of attorney.

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For information on pro bono opportunities in Nunavut, please contact the Law Society of Nunavut’s Access to Legal Knowledge program.

Legal information and referrals: 1-844-979-2330

Inuktitut Hotline: 1-888-990-4665

Iqaluit: 1-867-975-2120

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Yukon Public Legal Education Association (YWCA)

The Yukon Public Legal Education Association (YWCA) is a non-profit organization devoted to providing legal information to the public and promoting increased access to the legal system. It helps the public identify and understand their legal rights and responsibilities in order to improve their ability to deal with legal matters. YWCA is a one-stop-shop for anyone requesting legal education and can refer individuals outward to other resources as necessary. YWCA provides legal information, including online resources, but does not attend Court on behalf of individuals.

Yukon Family Law Information Centre (FLIC)

FLIC is an office of the Court Services branch of the Yukon Department of Justice that provides information on family law issues and court procedures. Like YWCA above, FLIC provides legal information but cannot provide legal representation. It offers workshops for members of the public targeted to certain family-law situations.

Aboriginal Court Worker Program

Aboriginal Court Workers are available to assist First Nation persons who find themselves involved in the justice system, including criminal matters.

Blood Ties

Blood Ties is designed to assist individuals with blood diseases. While they do not formally offer legal services, they do offer counselling and assistance to individuals in the criminal justice system who need support for issues like housing.

Yukon Public Law Library (YPLL)

The YPLL provides free in-library access to LawSource, CriminalSource and FamilySource. It also offers a print collection and enables individuals to listen to recordings of Court proceedings.