Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) & Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario (RLA)
The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and the Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario are calling on the Government of Canada to halt the deportation of individuals who do not have access to a lawyer as a result of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s recent cuts to Legal Aid funding.
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has traditionally provided Ontarians living below the poverty line of $17,000 in annual income with access to a lawyer for meritorious refugee and immigration cases.
On April 11, 2019, the Government of Ontario told LAO it could not use provincial money for any refugee and immigration cases, as a part of an overall 30% cut to the province’s legal aid budget. A growing chorus has denounced these cuts – joined most recently by the Department of Justice lawyers, who have released a statement stating: “By forcing the end of services that help marginalized people defend their rights, access to justice is being denied to those who need it the most in Ontario.”
Canada’s complex refugee system is nearly impossible to navigate without legal representation – all the more so for individuals who arrive in Canada with nothing, who are traumatized, and who do not speak English or French. The fact is that many refugees cannot present their cases without a lawyer. And they now face deportation to the very persecution, torture, detention or death that they fled.
“Doug Ford’s elimination of legal aid for refugees is a shameful abdication of Ontario’s role in the administration of justice,” says Raoul Boulakia of the RLA executive. “Charter rights are at stake here. Only the federal government can ensure that vulnerable people are not deported because they cannot afford a lawyer to present their case properly, or to help them appeal a decision that was wrongly made.”
“No one who is facing torture in a repressive regime, no woman who ran away from severe domestic violence in a country without protections, no LGBTQ2S individual who fled to save her life, should be deported without access to a lawyer because of a funding dispute between Queen’s Park and Ottawa,” says Maureen Silcoff, President of CARL.
This is why we are calling on Ottawa to halt all removals of individuals who have been deprived of access to counsel because of the legal aid cuts until the crisis is resolved.
In the meantime, we implore the Ford government to reverse these cuts, and we call on both levels of government to arrive at a shared funding formula to restore legal aid for refugees and immigrants in need.
Erin Simpson – firstname.lastname@example.org 416-363-1696 ext. 103 647-406-1341