MANDATE OF THE SOCIETY
The mission of the Legal Aid Society of Alberta is to facilitate equality of access to the justice system through the provision of legal services in serious legal matters to those who would not otherwise be able to finance them solely from their own resources.
The major service provided by the Legal Aid Society is the certificate program. The Legal Aid Society appoints lawyers (both private bar and staff lawyers) to represent financially eligible individuals in a wide variety of cases. In criminal matters this includes all indictable offences, and summary conviction offences where there is a likelihood of incarceration or loss of means to earn a livelihood, or where special circumstances warrant legal aid coverage. Civil coverage is provided in a wide range of cases, most notably family law matters. The certificate program also extends to services provided pursuant to the Reciprocal Agreement with other Canadian Legal Aid plans, and, on occasion, to complainants and other witnesses in criminal proceedings where legal counsel is required.
A Duty Counsel program ensures the availability of legal advice and assistance to persons making their initial criminal court appearance unrepresented by counsel. There is no financial eligibility testing for assistance through this program. Duty Counsel services are provided in both the adult and youth divisions of Provincial Court. A Duty Counsel service is also provided for persons wishing assistance for Mental Health Review Panel hearings.
The Legal Aid Society provides a list of lawyers willing to provide legal advice to detained persons outside regular office hours to all police services operating in the province. This program, referred to as Brydges service, or the Brydges list, does not have an eligibility requirement.
Specialized Youth Criminal Defence Offices are in place in Edmonton and Calgary to handle matters on behalf of youths charged with criminal offences. Staff lawyers assisted by paralegals provide services to individual clients and also perform Duty Counsel services. In those instances where there is a conflict of interest, the young person is appointed counsel from the private Bar.
A Court Ordered Counsel program for youths is administered by the Legal Aid Society on behalf of Alberta Justice. This service is for youths who are not eligible for legal aid assistance due to family income levels. Certificates are issued as with legal aid and payment for services is according to the Legal Aid Tariff. The Youth Criminal Defence Office handles most of the Court Ordered Counsel cases in Edmonton and Calgary.
Two new programs are being tested by the Legal Aid Society. As a joint initiative with Siksika Nation, a Legal Aid staff lawyer, assistant and a Siksika court worker provide services to Siksika members in both criminal and civil matters. Their offices are located on the Siksika Reserve. The second program involves the provision of legal
aid services by staff lawyers for family law matters. Calgary.
The Family Law Offices are located in Edmonton and
Part of the service provided by the Regional Offices, in addition to assessing eligibility for certificate coverage, is to make appropriate referrals to other service agencies for those seeking such information as well as those found not
The Legal Aid Society of Alberta is an independent organization incorporated under the Societies Act but is accountable to the Minister of Justice for Alberta and to the Law Society of Alberta.
Accountability is achieved through a budget and business plan process. Accountability is also met by the provision of monthly reports, including unaudited financial statements, an annual report, including audited financial statements, and such other information relating to the business and operations as may be requested by the Minister or Law Society.