COVID-19 & Physical Opening of Nova Scotia Legal Aid Offices

The offices of Nova Scotia Legal Aid are now being staffed during regular business hours and limited in-person client service has resumed. We ask that you continue to apply online or by telephone if possible. If someone is unable to access service in these ways, they are welcome to attend the nearest office to apply.

Most appointments will continue to be held by telephone or video. In-person appointments will occur only when the lawyer and client agree it is necessary.  For this reason, please do not stop into any of our offices with a question regarding your matter but call instead. When you go to a Legal Aid Office please go alone if possible to minimize the number of people attending, and let us know in advance if you will be bringing someone with you.

If you are attending an office in person for help or for a scheduled appointment here is what you can expect:

  • Signage asking you to self-screen for symptoms or other risk factors of COVID-19. If you are sick or have any symptoms, please do not come in, but leave and call the office for help.
  • Signage indicating the maximum number of people who can be in a waiting room at one time. This will vary depending on the office so please check the sign and do not enter if others are in the waiting room.  Call the front desk to let them know you are there.
  • Markers on the floor indicating where you can safely stand while speaking to staff at the front desk.
  • Hand washing or sanitizing will be mandatory for everyone entering our spaces. Supplies will be provided.
  • Masks will be mandatory for everyone without a medical condition preventing them from wearing of a mask when entering our offices. In some cases, the lawyer and client will be able to remove their masks once in the meeting room if it is large enough to allow social distancing. If you do not have a mask when you arrive, one will be provided.
  • All meeting areas are sanitized between clients and all high-touch surfaces are cleaned throughout the day.

Please be patient as we navigate this new process.  If you have any questions, please call the office prior to attending.

PDF Version:  COVID-19 & Physical Opening of NSLA Offices

Statement by Nova Scotia Legal Aid on Black Lives Matter Movement

 

Statement by Nova Scotia Legal Aid on Black Lives Matter Movement

 

Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) acknowledges the triggering of pain, anger, frustration and trauma for African Nova Scotian communities and people of African descent worldwide from the recent traumatic deaths in the Unites States of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and, in Canada, Regis Korchinski-Paquet. NSLA further acknowledges that this is tied to a legacy of enslavement and segregation dating back hundreds of years.

Issues of systemic racism and injustice are Canadian and Nova Scotian issues as well, as evidenced recently by the Wortley and MacDonald reports, and the continued over-incarceration of people of African descent and over-representation in child protection systems. NSLA recognizes that these are issues of fundamental human rights, not just issues of racialized people.

Nova Scotia Legal Aid has committed to fighting systemic racism through our Mandate and Strategic Plan. Our Strategic Plan includes the following:

Our commitment to enhancing access to justice with a focus on economically vulnerable and historically disadvantaged Nova Scotians continues. In meeting that commitment, we recognize the over-representation of Indigenous and African Nova Scotians in criminal and child protection systems and are, therefore, committed to:

  • Responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action as Nova Scotia Legal Aid has a key role to play as the front line in our family and criminal justice systems.
  • Providing culturally responsive service to Indigenous and African Nova Scotian clients through the education of our staff and by bringing cultural impact to the forefront on matters before the courts.

As an organization, we know making that statement is not enough and that we must act on it.  We have a lot to still learn; we can and must do better.

Nova Scotia Legal Aid offers support in many different ways, including through our African Nova Scotian Social Worker and ongoing cultural proficiency education to improve service offered and awareness of issues by our staff. In addition to family law, social justice and criminal law advice and representation, NSLA provides representation to African Nova Scotians who lack clear title to their historic land as part of the Land Titles Initiative. NSLA’s Equity & Racial Diversity Committee works to support staff, advise the Executive, and ensure culturally safe and relevant service is offered to our clients. If you think we may be able to help you access better justice, please reach out.

NSLA calls on our justice system partners to join us in identifying and speaking out against all forms of racism and bias; to educate themselves and their organizations on the ways racism and bias manifest and the impact of historic and present racism on individuals and communities; and to support and join African Nova Scotians and the Black Lives Matter movement in denouncing and eliminating racism and inequality.

PDF Version:  NSLA Statement on Black Lives Matter Movement

Need Help Adjourning a Halifax or Dartmouth Provincial Court Date?

Current circumstances have led to the closure of Provincial Courts for all but urgent and essential matters. Effective June 1, 2020, the Provincial Court will permit some in-custody trials and in-custody preliminary inquiries to proceed in-person for urgent and essential matters, where all public health directives can be followed. For individuals not in custody, all trials and preliminary inquiries scheduled in June and July that involve an accused individual who is not in custody will be adjourned to a later date. You can apply for a lawyer for a trial matter at your nearest Legal Aid Office or online at https://www.nslegalaid.ca/online-application/.

If you have a matter for first appearance, plea, or other types of appearance in June and do not have a lawyer, Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) wishes to extend an invitation to contact NSLA for assistance with adjournments. NSLA can provide a one-time service to assist unrepresented individuals to obtain an adjournment of their matter. There is no financial assessment for this adjournment service.

In HRM, the best way to request assistance for an adjournment is to complete the online form at  HRM Provincial Court Adjournment. The online form only gathers the information necessary to make a request to adjourn a court date on your behalf. Priority will be given to online requests for assistance.

In HRM, you can also apply for the adjournment service by calling 902-420-7800.  Please leave a message with your full name, date of birth, and your upcoming court date and location. A representative will be in touch to confirm we can assist. Please try to contact NSLA with your request at least 2 days before your court date so we can ensure that counsel is available and advised of your request. While we will try to contact you with your new court date, it will still be your responsibility to find out your new date yourself by contacting NSLA or the courthouse where your case is being heard.

Individuals without a confirmed lawyer to appear for them should not attend court in person and must contact the courthouse for instructions. Information can be found in the Provincial Court directive: https://www.courts.ns.ca/News_of_Courts/documents/NSPC_Consolidated_Directive_COVID19_03_31_20.pdf

For individuals outside of Halifax/Dartmouth or seeking full-service representation, apply online or by telephone at their local NSLA Office if they wish to retain a lawyer and believe they may qualify for legal aid. A list of NSLA Offices can be found here:  https://www.nslegalaid.ca/legal-aid-offices/

Support Variations During COVID-19 – New Ways to Help

Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA), Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) and Court Services have coordinated to establish new ways to help for support variations during COVID-19. FAQs for payors and recipients can be found here:  Support Variations During COVID-19 Pilot FAQs

Tammy Wohler – Nova Voce Article – “Supporting the Vulnerable”

Below is the above-noted article wherein Tammy Wohler, Social Justice Office, did an article for the CBA’s Nova Voce Special Edition on COVID-19 on the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable persons. Her article begins on page 16.

CBA Nova Voce Spring 2020

Josh Nodelman – CBC Article – “Legal Aid wants to help Nova Scotians facing steep COVID-19 fines”

Below is a link to the above-noted article wherein Josh Nodelman, Halifax South, discusses summary offence tickets issued because of COVID-19.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/covid-19-summary-offence-tickets-legal-aid-lawyer-help-nova-scotia-1.5567487

May 5 Update re NSLA Services

 

 

 

 

May 5, 2020

 

Dear NSLA Clients, Applicants, Community Partners & Stakeholders:

RE:          NOVA SCOTIA LEGAL AID SERVICES

As a result of enhanced directives from the Province of Nova Scotia and the state of emergency, Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) Offices are closed to the public. We are providing the updated information below to assist you with contacting our offices, or in referring Nova Scotians to our service. Please note that updates to services or new services since the April 1, 2020 notice are noted in red.

General Information

  • Although NSLA Offices are closed to the public, as an essential service, we will continue to help Nova Scotians who require our services.
  • Although our physical offices are closed, staff are working remotely, and office main lines are operational. NSLA Offices can be reached by telephone, or email. A list of offices can be found at https://www.nslegalaid.ca/legal-aid-offices/
  • Voicemail and email accounts will be regularly monitored.
  • NSLA Offices will not be regularly staffed so please do not send anything via fax.
  • If a Legal Aid client has an upcoming court matter, they should contact their lawyer regarding their court date if they have not already heard from them.
  • All outreach into communities by NSLA staff will be suspended until further notice.
  • Please be patient when contacting NSLA and expect delays in receiving a response to telephone calls, emails, or an application. As a result of changes in service due to COVID-19, there will be a large increase in the volume of calls, emails, and online applications which staff must handle.

Appointments & Applying for Legal Aid

  • If an individual has an appointment at a NSLA Office, they should call the office so other arrangements can be made. Appointments with NSLA may be held by telephone or video if possible.
  • Applicants for legal aid services can apply online at https://www.nslegalaid.ca/online-application/. NSLA Offices will screen applications for urgent matters first. With an expected increase in the volume of online applications, we ask applicants to please be patient in waiting to hear from NSLA regarding their application.

Criminal Law Matters (Adult & Youth) & Domestic Violence

Family Law Matters

  • Updates regarding the status of all courts can be found on the NS Courts website at: https://www.courts.ns.ca/News_of_Courts/COVID19_Preventative_Measures.htm
  • NSLA is continuing to provide family summary advice services at all Courthouses through scheduled telephone appointments. This service is available to Nova Scotians who do not qualify financially for legal aid.
  • NSLA has expanded its family summary advice services by making it available by telephone at all Legal Aid Offices that provide family law services. Details: https://www.nslegalaid.ca/expansion-of-family-law-summary-advice-and-online-chats/
  • A Support Variation Pilot Process has been put in place effective May 4, 2020. This is a joint Pilot of the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP), Courts Services and NSLA. MEP will identify self-represented parties who have had a change of income as a result of COVID-19 and, with the individual’s consent, will notify the Managing Lawyer of the appropriate NSLA Office and MEP will also advise the individual to apply for Legal Aid.
  • Online chats with a lawyer for family matters will continue and an extra day has been added. Family law chats are now being held every Tuesday and Thursday from 3-5 pm. Click on the chat button on our website to start https://www.nslegalaid.ca/

Social Justice (Income & Housing Matters)

  • Social Justice services are still available. NSLA offers legal advice and possibly full-service representation for income and housing matters. Contact local NSLA Office to apply.
  • Individuals facing a loss of income and have questions about accessing regular or sickness Employment Insurance (EI) Benefits, or the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) can obtain help from NSLA. Details: https://www.nslegalaid.ca/updated-information-about-ei-cerb-covid-19/
  • Online chats with a lawyer/advocate for social justice matters will continue. Online chats for income and housing issues are held every Wednesday from 3-5 pm. Click on the chat button on our website to start https://www.nslegalaid.ca/

Prison Law Services

We appreciate your patience and cooperation during this time.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Longley, QC

Chief Executive Officer

Do you Need Advice on Obtaining a Peace Bond?

Obtaining a Peace Bond

 

 

 

Do you need advice on obtaining a peace bond?

Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) is committed to assisting people applying for peace bond orders.  A peace bond is a court order to stay away from a person(s) or property and is issued by a Judge or Justice of the Peace upon reviewing evidence and hearing witnesses.  A peace bond lasts for one year.  If you are fearful of your safety or the safety of someone in your family, you may want to consider seeking a peace bond, in addition to other safety planning steps.

NSLA recognizes that the process of applying for and appearing in court to request the peace bond order can be difficult and we are here to help.  NSLA Staff Lawyers can assist by explaining the steps required to begin a peace bond application and then explaining the court process.  Peace bond hearings will take place over the telephone as part of the courts of Nova Scotia’s ongoing response to COVID-19.

If you are seeking assistance to apply for a peace bond, you can contact Nova Scotia Legal Aid at 902-420-7800 or apply online at: https://www.nslegalaid.ca/online-application/. A lawyer will contact you and provide you with confidential advice and assistance.

PDF Version:  Peace Bonds

NS Legal Aid Commission 2017-23 Strategic Plan

The Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission is pleased to share its 2017-23 Strategic Plan (SP). The SP was recently updated by the Commission for the 2020-23 fiscal years. This Plan continues to prioritize client-focused goals for improved and more accessible service as well as system-focused goals to better support the work of Nova Scotia Legal Aid staff in serving Nova Scotians.

NSLAC Strategic Plan 2017-23

Prison Law Services – Looking for Answers About Temporary Absences?

Temporay Leave of Absences
Looking for Anwers?

 

 

 

NSLA can assist you with applying for a temporary leave of absence (TA) if:

• You have less than 90 days left to serve on your sentence; and
• You have an address where you will be able to reside for the duration of your TA.

For further information please contact the NSLA office that provides criminal Legal Services to the court where you received your sentence.

The contact numbers for the various offices of NSLA who provide criminal law services are as follows:

NSLA Office location Toll-free Number
Amherst 1-866-999-7544
Antigonish 1-866-439-1544
Bridgewater 1-866-543-4658
Dartmouth 1-877-420-8818
Halifax 1-877-777-6583
Kentville 1-866-679-6110
New Glasgow 1-877-755-7020
Port Hawkesbury 1-888-817-0116
Truro 1-877-777-5920
Windsor 1-866-798-8397
Yarmouth 1-866-742-3300