Public proceeding of the Board

Immigration and refugee law advisory committee: Meeting minutes for June 23, 2009

1. Participants

Members

John McCamus, Rod McDowell, Michael Bossin, Gerri MacDonald, Raoul Boulakia, Sean Rehaag, Ezat Mossallanejad, Marcel Castonguay, James Yakimovich

Regrets

Barb Jackman, John Rokakis, Geraldine Sadoway, Rana Khan

Legal Aid Ontario

Rod Strain, Heather Morgan

2. Welcome and Introductions

The Chair opened the meeting.

3. LAO Advisory Committees Terms of Reference

The Chair reviewed the final version of the new Terms of Reference, which were approved by the Board in February 2009. The new mandate of the advisory committees brings their work into closer alignment with the Boards planning processes.

4. Minutes, November 18, 2008 and Update on Action Items

  • The minutes of the spring meeting and the follow-up spring meeting were approved.
  • With respect to follow-up on the issue of persons in immigration limbo, members suggested that it might be helpful for LAO to review some concrete examples of cases and how they were resolved. There is a wide variety in these cases and they tend not to fit into any existing LAO category although area directors will try to make them fit. Members offered to do some background work on this issue for LAO. The Chair thanked them for their help.
  • There have been no further complaints to LAO regarding scooping at legal aid offices. Members were urged to report any problems of this nature to LAO right away, and not to wait for the next committee meeting. Complaints may also be made to CSIC, the regulatory body for immigration consultants. However, the greatest concern probably lies with ghost consultants, persons who are not formally registered as consultants.

5. Group Applications and Test Cases Committee

LAO is seeking two new members for this volunteer committee. GATCC assists LAO in evaluating applications for test case funding. Members were asked to e-mail LAO Policy Counsel assisting the advisory committees if they have suggestions.

6. Refugee Certificate Pressures

  • The LAO Director, Policy, reported that in the past year there was a 12-15 per cent increase in the number of refugee claimant applications to LAO and certificates issued.
  • LAO is considering ways to respond, including improving its upfront assessment of cases. Another approach being considered is to seek additional federal funding. The federal contribution to immigration and refugee coverage currently pays for no more than half of LAOs expenditures in this area.
  • Members noted that refugee numbers at the U.S. border are down, perhaps because of changes made by the Obama administration (e.g., there is now a U.S. stay on Haitian deportations, where there is no criminal record). Ottawa also reports a reduction in the number of claims.
  • The Board is now up to 87 per cent of full strength. The number of backlogged hearings is now around 58,000. LAO is starting to see a spike in the number of judicial reviews, doubtless related to the clearing of the backlog.

7. Business and Strategic Planning Discussion

  • The Chair outlined some of the factors that are having an impact on planning processes for the 2010-2011 business plan. The planning process has been delayed by the need to revise plans for 2009-2010, due to the worsening economy and the anticipated reduction in Law Foundation of Ontario revenues. The Chair explained some of the ways in which LAO is responding to the current environment. LAO is also thinking about a vision for innovation that may guide specific plans in the future.
  • Certain aspects of the planning discussion, including ideas for responses to factors identified in the discussion, were identified by the Chair as confidential and were redacted from the minutes.
  • Questions and comments were invited.
  • The ability for lawyers and other third parties to submit electronic certificate applications for clients is something that is being piloted and it should be rolled out more broadly in the next six months or so. It would be a good idea to include multicultural agencies in this initiative, because they can assist applicants in their own language.
  • There is a need for ODSP reform. The systematic rejection of disability claims places a severe and unfair burden on persons who are survivors of torture.
  • Law students are interested in legal aid work, but there are few articling positions.
  • One area that should be explored more thoroughly is prevention, through public legal information. Newcomers may be criminalized because they are unaware that some things, that may not have been considered criminal activity in their countries of origin, are crimes in Canada. Raising awareness could save money and reduce demand on the criminal justice system. Information sessions for newcomers, such as those already being held in Fort Erie, could be a potential model for getting more information to people, and LAO could participate.

8. Other Business

None raised.

9. Next meeting

No date was selected for the next meeting. Members will be contacted by e-mail to select a date. It was noted that the 3 pm start time was not convenient for several members.