Ontario Wants To Give Citizens Affordable Legal Representation
In March of 2018, the government introduced Bill C-75 which proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and a handful of other Acts, as well as to make consequential amendments to other Acts. It also proposed to increase the maximum penalty for some summary conviction offences up to two years and a day.
However, concern has risen regarding the hindrance of paralegals, lawyer licensing candidates and law students from providing legal representation to those charged with summary conviction offences.
The provincial government of Ontario is currently working with the Law Society of Ontario to put in place a program that will guarantee Bill C-75’s limited infringement on the legal representation provided by paralegals, lawyer licensing candidates, and law students, whom also benefit from providing legal services in such cases in the form of professional experience.
As part of the process, the government of Ontario has presented the Law Society of Ontario with an order-in-council providing authority to decide who is permitted to appear as a regulated agent in summary conviction court.
Currently, paralegals, lawyer licensing candidates and law students can provide legal services on summary conviction offences that carry penalties of a maximum of six months in jail or less.
This allows for a low-cost option for some of those facing summary offences. Without the availability of these services, many may be forced to take on large amounts of debt in order obtain legal council.
Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the experience of providing legal services in a real-life setting is invaluable to law students and lawyer licensing candidates. Absent this opportunity, they are losing the chance to professionally develop themselves. In the long run, this no only affects the students themselves, but also their future clients.
Presently, the Law Society is content with the Ontario government’s attitude towards the problem, according to the Treasurer of the Law Society (Malcolm Mercer), who stated, “We are very pleased with the Ontario government’s response on this issue. Convocation will consider a motion to preserve the abilities of these regulated agents to appear in summary conviction court, before Bill C-75 comes into force.”