The effect of an accused’s decision to be self-represented
was considered by the Ontario Court of Appeal in R. v. Romanowicz,
where the court considered whether there is a constitutional right
to effective assistance where an accused charged with a summary
conviction offence is represented by an agent who is not a lawyer.
In this case, the court stated, at paras. 27-30 and 37-38:
Every accused is owed a fair trial. That right is guaranteed by s. 11(d) of the
Charter. Representation by professionals trained in the law and bound by the
ethics and obligations of their profession serves that right. In some cases,
legal representation is essential to the securing of a fair trial and an accused
who wants counsel must be provided with counsel: R. v. Rowbotham (1988),
41 C.C.C. (3d) 1 at 66 (Ont. C.A.). If an accused retains counsel, she is consti-
tutionally entitled to competent representation by that counsel: R. v. L.C.B.
(1996), 104 C.C.C. (3d) 353 at 367 (Ont. C.A.); R. v. Joanisse (1995),
102 C.C.C. (3d) 35 at 56-58. The constitutional right to the effective assis-
tance of counsel recognizes that counsel, by virtue of their professional train-
ing, will bring to their task an expertise which others, including the accused,
do not possess. An accused who chooses to seek the assistance of legally
trained counsel is entitled to assistance which reflects that expertise.
An accused is also entitled to proceed without counsel. The accused may
choose self-representation, or if the Crown has proceeded summarily, the
accused may choose to be represented by an agent: R. v. Vescio,  S.C.R.
139 at 142; R. v. Littlejohn and Tirabasso (1978), 41 C.C.C. (2d) 161 at 173
(Ont. C.A.). By choosing to proceed without counsel, an accused elects to forego the right to the effective assistance of counsel. An accused cannot at the
same time exercise the right to proceed without the assistance of counsel and
yet demand the right to the effective assistance of counsel.
If an accused chooses self-representation, he or she cannot be heard to complain that the conduct of the trial did not rise to the level of a competent
counsel. We see no reason why the same conclusion would not follow when an
accused chooses to be represented by an agent who is not a lawyer. Nor does
the fact that the agent is paid create any presumption as to the agent’s competence. Just as where an accused chooses self-representation, an accused
who chooses to be represented by an agent who is not a lawyer has decided
against exercising the right to effective assistance of counsel, and cannot be
heard to contend that the agent’s performance should be tested against the
standard reserved to counsel trained in the law: Harrison v. Canada, 
A.J. No. 109 at paras. 15-17 (Alta. Q.B.).
In holding that an accused who chooses to be represented by an agent and
not a lawyer has no constitutional right to competent representation, we do
not suggest that the accused’s right to a fair trial is diminished. That right
remains in full force and the absence of legally trained counsel puts an added
obligation on the trial judge to protect that right: R. v. McGibbon (1988),
45 C.C.C. (3d) 334 at 347 (Ont. C.A.).
The kind of inquiry expected of a trial judge where an accused chooses to
proceed without any representation provides guidance in cases where an
accused chooses to be represented by an agent who is not a lawyer. In R. v.
McGibbon, supra, Griffiths J.A. commented on the duty of a judge at the
opening of a trial where the accused is unrepresented. At p. 346 he stated: