How Do I Find a Public Defender?
In Canada the correct term is "Legal Aid Lawyer". Some provinces have "Public Defenders" but those are lawyers employed by the province to help detainees deal with preliminary matters. In Alberta, Legal Aid Lawyers are fully-qualified independent lawyers who work on a fixed fee schedule paid by the province.
Not everyone is entitled to a free Legal Aid Lawyer. There are fairly stringent family income rules that determine if you are eligible. The exact rules depend on a variety of factors but as a general ballpark figure a single individual adult is eligible only if their annual income is less than $20,000. Youth (ages 12-18) are eligible regardless of personal or family income.
If you know a lawyer who does Legal Aid cases you can contact them directly or request them specifically from Legal Aid. They are under no obligation to take your case however. If you do not know a Legal Aid Lawyer then you can contact Legal Aid Alberta and assuming you are eligible a lawyer will be assigned to your case.
Legal Aid is intended for serious criminal matters (i.e. where there is a possibility of jail time) and family legal matters. There are a number of other organizations that provide free legal advice in other circumstances. For more information, see the Pro Bono Law Alberta website.
If you have been arrested then regardless of your income you are entitled to speak for free with a lawyer to obtain preliminary legal advice. This is called the "Brydges" program and the phone number is posted in all police stations and detention centres.
For more information, visit the Alberta Legal Aid website.