2. Get legal help

If you identify as Indigenous and you’re charged with a crime, speak to your lawyer or to see what kind of support is available for you.

Duty counsel

Criminal duty counsel are Legal Aid Ontario staff lawyers who can give immediate legal assistance to low-income people who appear in court without a lawyer.

Duty counsel can give you brief legal advice about your case. They can also help you find out if you qualify for a Legal Aid certificate or if you should hire a private lawyer.

You can ask duty counsel if you can have your matter dealt with in Gladue Court. If so, they can tell you how your local Gladue Court works.

Apply for a Legal Aid certificate

If your charges are serious or complicated, or if you want to have a , duty counsel can help you to apply for a Legal Aid certificate.

To qualify for a Legal Aid certificate, you must have a low income and the Crown must be seeking a jail if you’re found guilty.

If you get a certificate, this means that Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) pays a lawyer of your choice to work for you. But not all lawyers will accept a Legal Aid certificate as payment. You will have to find a lawyer that agrees to work you and accepts Legal Aid certificates.

Indigenous court worker

Indigenous court workers often work out of Indigenous Friendship Centres. Most courthouses have an Indigenous court worker who can:

  • offer you support
  • give you legal information
  • help you apply for a Legal Aid certificate
  • refer you to community services for help with issues like mental health, trauma, addictions, or homelessness
  • help you with your release plan for your
  • help you with your plan of care for your sentencing
  • help you with Indigenous , if appropriate

If you qualify for a legal aid certificate but are having difficulty choosing a lawyer, the Indigenous court worker might be able to refer you to a lawyer.

If you’re out of , ask your lawyer or duty counsel if there is an Indigenous court worker at your courthouse and, if so, what days they are available.

If you’re in custody, you can ask your lawyer or duty counsel to refer you to the Indigenous court worker if you would like them to help you.

Indigenous Bail Verification and Supervision Programs

In some places, there are Indigenous Bail Verification and Supervision Programs (BVSP). BVSPs offer support to people who need a to be released on but don’t have one.

If you’re being supervised by a BVSP, you will have to report to them as directed. If you don’t report as directed, they have to report you to the police and you can be rearrested.

BVSP workers can also refer you to appropriate supports in the community, based on your needs.

Indigenous Organizations

In Toronto, Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) is a great resource for Indigenous people charged with a crime. While ALS does not provide criminal lawyers to represent you in court, ALS does have Indigenous court workers and the Community Council diversion program in Toronto. They also write Gladue reports in various locations in Ontario.

Outside of Toronto, there are other Indigenous organizations that offer support to Indigenous people charged with a crime. Ask your lawyer or duty counsel for a referral.

Hide this website