Ontario Protecting Access to Affordable Legal Representation

Published on August 16, 2019

New Program to Allow Law Students, Lawyer Licensing Candidates and Paralegals to Continue to Appear in Court


TORONTO — The Ontario government is proactively working with the Law Society of Ontario to establish a program that will ensure the federal government's Bill C-75 does not restrict paralegals, lawyer licensing candidates or law students from providing legal representation to people charged with summary conviction offences.

The government has responded to the concerns expressed by Ontario's legal community that federal changes to aspects of the Criminal Code in Bill C-75 could restrict access to affordable legal representation provided by paralegals, lawyer licensing candidates (including articling students) and law students, all of whom are agents regulated by the Law Society of Ontario. This could limit opportunities for law students and lawyer licensing candidates to gain valuable professional experience, as they currently do.

“The stated intentions of Bill C-75 are to keep Canadians safe, and not to inadvertently prevent paralegals, lawyer licensing candidates and law students from continuing to provide legal representation as they do now,” said Minister Downey. “We are working closely with the Law Society of Ontario to proactively address this situation in Ontario while ensuring these legal representation options remain accountable and subject to the current standards.”

The Ontario government has issued an order-in-council to designate authority to the Law Society to determine who has the ability to appear in summary conviction court as a regulated agent.

“We are very pleased with the Ontario government's response on this issue,” said Malcolm Mercer, Treasurer of the Law Society. “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.”

Quick Facts

  • The federal Bill C-75 increased the maximum penalty for some summary conviction offences up to two years less a day.
  • 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.
  • Summary conviction offences are criminal offences that carry lower maximum penalties. These matters are heard in the Ontario Court of Justice.