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 Appealing Legal Aid Ontario Decisions

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This Info guide has been prepared by the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office in the Ministry of Health for general Informational purposes only.  It does not contain legal advice.  If you have a question of would like advice about your specific legal situation, you should contact a lawyer.

June 2016

What can I do if my application for a Legal Aid Certificate is refused?

  • If your application for a legal aid certificate is refused, you may have the right to appeal the refusal. 
  • Your right to appeal, if one exists, will be stated on the refusal notice, including information on where to send your appeal.
  • You may also submit a new application if your financial circumstances have changed.
  • Keep in mind that certificates are generally only available for certain legal problems, such as:
    • mental health hearings (e.g., Consent and Capacity Board, Ontario Review Board);
    • criminal cases (e.g., offences which are likely to result in jail time); and
    • family (e.g., custody, child protection, access, support).


What is a Notice of Refusal?

  • If you are denied a legal aid certificate, you will receive a Notice of Refusal from Legal Aid Ontario. The Notice of Refusal will state the following:
    • reason(s) for the denial;
    • information concerning how to appeal Legal Aid Ontario’s decision; and
    • a timeframe for submitting the appeal.


How do I submit an appeal?

  • To appeal, you need to send a letter of appeal to the legal aid office listed on your notice, for consideration by the area committee. You must include the following information, in English or French:
    • your name 
    •  your client number—this appears at the top of the notice you received
    • your current mailing address and telephone number
    • the reasons for your appeal
  • If you need more information about what to submit with your appeal, you should contact the Legal Aid Ontario office listed on the notice, or call 1-800-668-8258.


What information should I include in the letter of appeal?

  • Be sure to explain the seriousness of your case and the impact it will have on your liberties and your life.
  • Write out the reasons for the appeal, provide as much detail as you can about your expenses and include receipts.
  • If you have a lawyer, you may want to ask him or her to write the letter or to provide a letter in support of your application.
  • If you are a patient in a psychiatric facility with a Patient Advocate office, you may contact the Patient Advocate for assistance with this process.
  • Staff must never use restraints as a punishment or as a response to difficult behavior.


When do I submit the appeal?

  • According to the LAO website, appeals will not be considered if your letter of appeal is received by Legal Aid Ontario more than 15 days from the date of the date of the notice of refusal that you received.
  • You may send your letter of appeal by Fax, Canada Post or you can drop it off at the local legal aid office in person.


What happens when I submit my appeal?

  • Once your local Legal Aid Ontario office receives the appeal, there is an internal review of your case. 
  • You will receive the outcome of your appeal in writing. If you do not receive written notice of the decision within 10 days, contact Legal Aid Ontario.


If I am unsuccessful before the Area Committee, can I appeal its decision?

  • Yes, the decision of the Area Committee can be appealed to the Director of Appeals at the Provincial Office of Legal Aid Ontario.
  • You can do this by submitting a letter or notice of appeal, giving all the reasons for the appeal. Information about where to appeal is included in the decision of the area committee. 
  •  The director of appeals reviews your letter or notice, and all information considered by the area committee, before making a decision. The director of appeals then assesses the case and sends a written decision by mail, usually within two weeks of receiving complete information.
  • The decision of the director of appeals is final, and there is no further right of appeal.


What can I do if I disagree with a repayment agreement?

  • In some circumstances, if you have assets above the financial eligibility criteria, Legal Aid Ontario may require you to enter into a “contribution agreement” (also known as a repayment agreement). The contribution agreement sets out how you will repay part or all of the costs of your legal services.
  • You can only request a review of a contribution agreement for two reasons:
    • You are in debt 
    • You have high medical expenses 
  •  To request a review, you must go through the appeals process.



  • For more information about Legal Aid Ontario, contact their office at (416) 979- 1446 in Toronto or 1-800-668-8258 outside of Toronto. Legal Aid Ontario’s website is
  • If you have questions, contact your local Patient Advocate or Rights Adviser or call the central office of the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office at 1-800-578-2343.