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Maryland Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues 5:2 1994


Recently described in the American Lawyer as Canada's Cadillac legal services, the Ontario legal aid scheme--Canada's first and today its most costly-is in serious need of repair. This paper, which grows out of a presentation made by Robert Holden, Director of the Ontario Legal Aid Plan, describes both the introduction of legal aid services in Ontario and the evolution of the original pro bono scheme into a government-funded judicare scheme.

It is not surprising that in 1952, when contemporary legal aid was introduced into Canada, both the bar and government of Ontario looked to the United Kingdom for direction. In fact, Canadian legal culture was still dominated by British jurisprudence, legal institutions, practice, and legislation. It is much more surprising that when in the 1960s, Ontario re-examined legal aid, the fascination with British models, specifically English legal aid endured, and Ontario chose to emulate the British judicare system providing "eligible" citizens with legal aid certificates which they could present to private practitioners to represent them in civil or criminal matters. (The Scottish duty counsel system was also included in Ontario's model criminal legal aid scheme.) Clearly and conspicuously ignored were developments much closer to home-the American storefront legal clinics.