ALAP supports training to meet legal needs of clients with mental health issues

04:21 PM | by Legal Aid Ontario

The Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada (ALAP) is pleased to announce that the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) will be partnering with one of ALAP’s member plans, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), which is piloting a training program set to begin later this year.

“ALAP is increasingly concerned that Canadians with mental illness disproportionally appear in criminal courts, struggle with homelessness and income stability, and are at a greater risk in family breakdown situations,” says Bob Ward, Chair of ALAP.

The MHCC will be working with LAO to train legal aid personnel to identify the signs of mental illness, to understand the stigma attached to mental health, and develop better responses to serving the legal needs of Canadians with mental health issues. This pilot training program is the first such collaboration between the MHCC and a major legal services provider.

“Effective justice matters to ALAP,” says Robert Penney, Chief Operating Officer of New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission. “Legal aid is essential to individuals, families and children and essential to the integrity of the justice system as a whole.”

The mental health focus is one aspect of access to justice for Canadians.  Dr. Melina Buckley, Chair of the Access to Justice Committee of the Canadian Bar Association, says, “Not only does investment in Legal Aid make good financial sense, it is as essential to the hardware of our justice system as are our courthouses.”

The mental health training program will begin with LAO later this year, followed by roll-out to other legal aid plans.

The Association of Legal Aid Plans (ALAP) is an umbrella group representing each of the provincial and territorial legal aid plans. It promotes the essential role carried out by legal aid plans in the access to justice dialogue.


Kristian Justesen

Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations

Legal Aid Ontario