Duty Counsel Day brings access to justice education to Alberta classrooms

Oct. 27 recognizes duty counsel as the unsung heroes of the justice system.

Communications and Public Relations
October 27, 2022

Duty Counsel Day in Alberta: 

  • Alberta high schools join classroom “Ask Me Anything” events with Legal Aid Alberta lawyers 
  • Alberta educators are being provided videos and fun learning materials to spark classroom conversations about the legal system 
  • Calgary, Edmonton mayors proclaim Duty Counsel Day Oct. 27 
  • Alberta landmarks to light up red for our legal rights 
  • Alberta lawyers, law students attended informative webinar on how to become a duty counsel lawyer 
  • Messages of support from the Supreme Court of Canada, dignitaries, popular TV show about legal aid lawyers 
  • A special message from Legal Aid Alberta CEO and President John Panusa


Anyone can end up in court. And front-line lawyers called duty counsel are in courtrooms across the country every day to provide free legal assistance guaranteed to all Canadians.   

Oct. 27 is Duty Counsel Day in Canada. Legal Aid Alberta, in partnership with Canada’s 12 other legal aid associations, are teaming up with schools across the country to educate the next generation about the importance of duty counsel to the justice system. 

Many Albertans who appear in courts are self-represented and don’t have a lawyer. They are at risk of losing custody of their children or being held in prison if they don’t understand what is happening or what is legally required of them at any given hearing.  

That’s where duty counsel lawyers come in. 

Duty counsel lend a hand and a voice to those desperate for one, and they transform access to justice from a cherished principle to something tangible and real.” – John Panusa, President and CEO, Legal Aid Alberta

Across Canada, duty counsel provide free, on-the-spot legal advice in family, criminal and immigration courts. No matter the circumstance, these front-line lawyers are here to help every Canadian who needs it – day or night. 

In fact, on average, duty counsel help Canadians over 1.2 million times per year – and that’s something worth celebrating. 

Fostering the next generation of duty counsel 

“What do lawyers do every day?” 

“Why is their job important?” 

“How do I become a lawyer?” 

Students across Alberta could very well be the next generation of duty counsel lawyers. 

Teachers are encouraged to set aside a few minutes of classroom time to play short videos, do a word search together, discuss how the justice system works in simple terms and learn more about the vital role duty counsel play in fighting for the legal rights of all Canadians. These learning materials are available in English and French. 

In Alberta, Legal Aid Alberta lawyers are hosting “Ask Me Anything” Q&A sessions in high school classrooms around the province. Students will learn about a day in the life of a duty counsel lawyer, come to better understand their rights as citizens and discover career opportunities in the law. 

Participating schools include: 

  • Crescent Heights High School 
  • Aurora Charter School 
  • Suzuki Charter School 
  • Boyle Street Education Centre 

On Oct. 25, Legal Aid Alberta hosted a webinar for all Alberta lawyers on how they can become duty counsel and pursue a rewarding career standing up for Albertans. Law students were also invited and encouraged to attend. 

How to get involved 

“Duty counsel helped me at my lowest points.” – Sean 

Show your support this Duty Counsel Day by watching a short video, posting on social media and writing a message of thanks – and more. Read about
Nine things you can do to support Duty Counsel Day and join the celebration with your fellow Canadians. 

Duty Counsel Day Facts 

  • Duty Counsel Day proclaimed in the Canadian Senate by Alberta Senator Patti LaBoucane-Benson. 
  • Mayors in Edmonton and Calgary have proclaimed October 27 Duty Counsel Day. 
  • Legal Aid Alberta lawyers are visiting high schools to teach young people about the vital role of duty counsel. 
  • On average, duty counsel help Canadians 1.2 million times per year. 
  • Duty counsel help people escaping family violence, protect our rights in courts, and support newcomers seeking safety and new lives in Canada. 

Duty counsel services available to Albertans 

Right now, duty counsel lawyers are helping Albertans in 75 communities. Duty counsel are there for you, at no cost, over the phone and at courthouses. 

  • On-call from police stations 
  • Representation at bail hearings 
  • Adult and youth criminal cases 
  • Family breakdown and family violence 

Charged with a crime and self-represented? 

In Alberta, you can get legal advice over the phone before your first court appearance. Duty counsel lawyers can explain your situation and your options. 

On your court date, if you are at the courthouse, duty counsel lawyers are available in person or virtually to help both adults and youth. You don’t have to figure it out all alone. 

Lawyer on call if you’re in police custody 

A lawyer is available by phone. The phone number is on the wall at every police station. 

How it works: Tell the police officer that you would like to speak to a lawyer. The officer will call the hotline, and a lawyer will call back to speak with you. Ask for an interpreter if you need one. 

Legal representation at bail hearings 

Albertans who are arrested and denied bail have the right to free legal aid representation at their bail hearing. Duty counsel bail lawyers are available 16 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

Family breakdown 

Duty counsel are available in provincial courthouses across Alberta. Visit duty counsel on your court date for brief legal advice on issues related to parenting, guardianship, child support, property actions, spousal support, and divorce. 

Family violence

Do you need help dealing with family violence? Lawyers can help you get an emergency protection order. 

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