LAO Express

Vol. 15 - January 2013

Update to Refugee Bar

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) continues to review the delivery of refugee services in response to new legislation and to modernize services for clients.

The Balanced Refugee Reform Act, coupled with the closure of the Ottawa Immigration and Refugee Board Office, has resulted in new processes for refugee claimants, private bar lawyers, and LAO.

To accommodate these new processes, LAO is implementing interim procedures until the review of refugee legal aid services is complete and a new refugee service delivery model is established.

Refugee Appeal Division (RAD)

The RAD procedure is new and no federal government funding is being provided for it. RAD certificates will not be issued at this time. On an interim basis, LAO is introducing a RAD pilot to evaluate the costs and benefits for clients. For the pilot, LAO will use existing resources within the Refugee Law Office in Toronto and the Ottawa District office to conduct appeals on some of their client files. The pilot will help inform future decision-making on whether to fund this procedure.

Closure of the Ottawa Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) Office

As a result of the Ottawa IRB Office closure, all Ottawa claims will be filed and heard in Montreal. Funding for these claims will be subject to the LAO reciprocal agreement with Quebec legal aid (i.e., claims filed and heard in Montreal should be paid for by Quebec legal aid).

Referring clients from Ottawa to Quebec legal aid potentially creates hardship for claimants and impacts the local Ottawa refugee bar, whose practices could be affected without adequate notice.

On an interim basis, LAO will continue to issue certificates to refugee claimants in Ottawa and provide authorization for lawyers' travel expenses to attend hearings in Montreal. All travel authorization will be in accordance with existing LAO travel policies (link).

LAO expects Ottawa claims to be heard in Montreal. For extraordinary circumstances, LAO may authorize travel to Toronto for a hearing.

LAO continues to fully examine the implications of the closure of the Ottawa IRB office. These interim processes and policies are likely to change in the future.

Should you have any questions, please contact your local district area director.

Refugee resources on LawFacts

LAO has recently improved the refugee resources on its LawFacts website.

The updated material outlines what is required to make a refugee claim, important deadlines to keep in mind, and helpful resources to get the process started.

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