No Legal Training, No Problem! Go Forth and Represent your Family in Provincial Court for Free.

Author:Izadi, Melody

Access to Justice is always a live and relevant issue: people with limited financial means are at risk to not having legal representation compared to those who can easily afford it. Legal Aid alleviates some financial pressure off impoverished accused in Criminal Court, however, unless the Crown is seeking a jail sentence, it is nearly impossible to have assistance from Legal Aid to fund a defence. That means an accused must represent themselves, or, pay out of pocket for a lawyer. And if paying out of pocket for a lawyer is not possible, the accused has no other choice but to defend themselves against the power and resources of the State and Police.

However, Legal Aid does not assist those that are accused of offences under the Provincial Offences Act, like careless driving. So an accused must represent themselves or hire a lawyer or paralegal to assist them by paying out of pocket. Thankfully, in a well-reasoned decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal in R. v. Allahyar 138 O.R. (3d) 233 has held that family members or friends, can represent the defendant in Provincial Court (with regards to Part I offences under the Provincial Offences Act) despite the fact that the individual does not have any legal training whatsoever:

Questions of competence must be addressed having regard to the context. Specialized training is not necessarily required before an unpaid family member or friend can represent an accused or defendant in a provincial offence appeal before the O.C.J. Attending court can be difficult and intimidating for an accused at any level of court. Having a friend or family member attend and assist can be invaluable and is consistent with ensuring access to justice. Mr. Allahyar's mother tongue was not English, and the Court found that his brother-in-law, Mr. Miazad was competent and diligent in assisting Mr. Allahyar in all of the court proceedings. Mr. Allahyar was charged with speeding contrary to Highway Traffic Act, and ultimately, the Court of Appeal stayed the charges against Mr. Allahyar in it's decision (he was not convicted).

At the first level of appeal after the Provincial Court, the Ontario Court of Justice, the appeal judge explicitly cited concerns about non-legally trained individuals litigating in court and stated:

I'm not going to hear the matter with Mr. Miazad as agent for the appellant. At an appeal level, one

would hope that [at] a minimum there's an agent and that's not Miazad's situation. I'm becoming more and...

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