The Evolution of Legal Aid in Nova Scotia

Below please find a copy of a Canadian Bar Association Nova Voce article by Megan Longley, QC, Chief Executive Officer, regarding Legal Aid in Nova Scotia.

CBA-NS Nova Voce – The Evolution of Legal Aid in Nova Scotia

Chronicle Herald Article: “Vulnerable women in Nova Scotia ending up on the streets or behind bars”

Below please find a link to the above-noted opinion article by Ashley Avery & Emma Halpern:

Efforts by Emma and Ashley in educating and advocating regarding the challenges faced by individuals is greatly appreciated. The work of The Elizabeth Fry Society and Coverdale Courtwork Society is essential to our clients and to Nova Scotia.

Heating Assistance Rebate Program

The Nova Scotia Heating Assistance Rebate Program helps low-income Nova Scotians with the cost of home heating. Rebates range from $100 to $200. You can apply until March 31, 2021. For details and to apply please visit their website at:  2020 Heating Assistance Rebate Program

2019-2020 Annual Report

The Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission’s 2019-20 Annual Report is now available and can be found on the About Us, Legal Aid Publications page, or at this link:  2019-20 Annual Report

Video – Crisis. Change. Reform. – Access to Justice: People First

The recording of the Crisis. Change. Reform. session is now available to watch online.

CBC’s Duncan McCue hosted a conversation between Beverley McLachlin, Bob Rae and Megan Longley, about the A2J impacts of the pandemic. The session, in English, can be viewed here:

Tenants Rights Eviction Workshop Hosted by Nova Scotia ACORN – August 15, 2020

On Saturday, August 15, 2020, Tammy Wohler, Social Justice Office, participated in the above-noted workshop. If you missed the workshop, you can view the video here:

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

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:

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:

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