My best answer is always that paralegals in Ontario are like "Lawyer Light." Lawyers and Paralegals are both licensed by the Law Society of Ontario, both are required to be insured against errors and omissions, and both can advise and represent you in courts and at tribunals. The differences are in the areas of practice. Think of paralegals as helping with the more day-to-day legal problems. The Paralegal areas of practice are described by the Law Society of Ontario as "Small Claims Court, traffic court, Tribunal work and certain criminal matters", but what does that mean practically?
Small Claims Court is for claims for damages up to $35,000.00. This includes anything from damage to property though negligence (like a car driving through a garage door) to breach of contract (like an unpaid bill for the fence you built). The catch is, it's only a monetary order. As I once heard a Deputy Judge describe it "All I can do is order money moved from one hand, to another." So in Small Claims Court, you would have to sue for the value of your dog, not the return of the dog.
There are two common ways to end up in Provincial Offences court for a traffic ticket, a part 1 offence, or a part 3. Part 1 offences are less serious (like speeding) and can be contested by means available on the back of each Offence Notice. A part 3 offence typically contains a summons or notice to appear. To put it another way, you can pay a part 1, but a part 3 probably has a court date if you pay the ticket first or not.
"Administrative tribunals" is a broad term that includes:
- The Financial Services Commission of Ontario,
- The Landlord & Tenant Board,
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
- The Ontario Labour Relations Board
Paralegals are licensed to practice in some criminal matters but quickly or easily describing which ones can be difficult. The Law Society has published a list List as a response to Bill C-75, which changed the previous regulations for Paralegal appearances. The list begins on page 107.
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