On Your Side: Groups offer free legal assistance
Published Monday, May 28, 2012 4:52PM EDT
MONTREAL - Those who have been summoned to court realize fast that it's a scary place where the stakes are high and even a small mistake can be costly.
There are, however, some excellent and free resources to help you navigate the often-intimidating world of Quebec law.
Those include a non-profit justice centre organized by the provincial Justice Minister.
"We needed to do something to simplify the law for the normal citizen, the one who's never been across the legal system and now comes up with a legal situation and wonders, ‘what do I do?'" said Michelle Moreau of Justice Quebec;
At Justice Centres across Quebec, citizens can meet with a lawyer who will not represent you in court but explain the law and your options, help organize your case and point you in the direction of a counsel or any specialized services that can further help you.
And it doesn't cost a cent.
"It's free for everyone," said Moreau. "And we don't ask questions about your financial situation and it's every area of the law. So it's a good place to start when you need information," said Moreau.
Another excellent resource is offered by the Quebec Young Bar Association where many lawyers with 10-years-or-less of practice can also help you prepare a case for free. for free.
"People really like to give back time to society and obviously for the younger lawyers it can give them experience," said Frederick Carle of the Young Bar Association of Montreal.
The group helps out with a wide variety of cases.
"From criminal law, consumer law, family law, company law, anything you think of, we can help on some level," said Carle.
It also offers services for youth, small claims court and even offers a telephone service.
"We organize a calendar towards the court date so that the citizen is better served towards a timely manner," said Carle.
And while both the young bar and the justice centers don't provide a lawyer to stand next to you in court, they can help prepare you for when you get there.
"Knowledge is power. If you know a little bit about the options, your situation and the context then it's less stress," said Moreau.
"What we realize the most is when people walk out of the centre there's a sense of empowerment and that's what we're looking for," she said.
Here's a list of contacts that can help you navigate these and other options.
Justice Centre in Montreal (Centre de Justice de Proximité) 407 Boul. St-Laurent, bureau 405. 514-227-3782
Young Bar Association of Montreal 514-954-3487
ProBono Students Canada McGill 514-398-3855 Services: Free legal help in certain cases.
ProBono Quebec 514-954-3434 Free legal help for exceptional cases and matters of public interest.
The Bar of Montreal 514-866-2490 Referral Service provides the name of a lawyer willing to offer an initial ½ hour consultation for a fixed fee of $30 or, in some cases, free of charge.
YWCA Contact: Martine Menard, 514-866-9941 ext. 293 Individual information sessions by volunteer lawyers in 30-minute sessions for $10.
Head & Hands Legal coordinator helps with legal situations including labour law, divorce law, discrimination, tenant law, etc, for people aged between 12 and 25 years old. People older than 25 can get advice from more than a dozen volunteer lawyers.
McGill Legal Information Clinic Legal info from McGill law students. You'll get a call within 48 hours. 514-398-6792
Educaloi offers a wide range of easy-to-understand information explaining legal rights and obligations in day-to-day situations.