For refugee and immigration lawyers

Expedites for Syrian refugee claimants

Effective immediately, Syrian claimants who apply for Refugee Protection Division (RPD) coverage will be issued a 10-hour expedite legal aid certificate.

The expedite certificate covers the preparation and filing of the Basis of Claim (BoC) and other documents (e.g., submissions) in accordance with the Immigration & Refugee Board’s (IRB) expedited process for Syrian refugee claimants.

For more information, please see Q & As below or contact your panel officer.

Questions and answers

1. Syrian Expedite Process

Q. If my client’s Syrian claim is expedited, how many hours will I get?

A. In October 2015, the IRB announced that it would begin to expedite Syrian refugee claims. In response to this announcement, and after consultation, LAO introduced a 10-hour expedite certificate for preparing the Basis of Claim and any submissions or evidence counsel may send to the RPD in support of the claim. As Syrian expedite processing will be paper based, there is no prepation for hearing or attendance at hearing tariff hours.

Q. Are my disbursements covered?

A. The same disbursements currently available to you with the BoC seven-hour certificate will continue to be available to you on expedite matters.

Q. What is the process for obtaining expedite certificate coverage?

A. The client requests legal aid coverage for a Syrian claim by contacting the Client Lawyer Service Centre. LAO will issue a 10-hour expedite certificate for BoC preparation and preparation of supporting documents. Counsel will fax the BoC to LAO as per the usual process.

Q. What happens if, after I obtain an expedite certificate, the matter proceeds by way of full hearing?

A. If a Syrian matter for which you have a 10-hour certificate goes to a full hearing, please fax the Notice of Hearing to LAO using the GTA fax number (416-598-0558) and request a six-hour hearing preparation and attendance at hearing authorization. The six-hour authorization will be added to your 10-hour certificate.

Q. I may not be notified by the IRB that a claim has been accepted under the expedite process until a week or two before the scheduled hearing date. What do I do then?

A. Counsel is expected to act in the best interest of his/her client and may begin preparing the client for hearing ahead of the scheduled hearing date (two weeks prior is suggested). In these circumstances, counsel will be paid for hearing preparation despite the fact that the claim subsequently proceeds without a hearing.

Counsel can request that LAO add a six-hour authorization for hearing preparation if necessary to safeguard the best interest of the client by contacting his/her panel officer.

Q. What will happen to the legacy Syrian claims where I already have a 16-hour certificate?

A. As expedites are covered for 10 hours, counsel will be asked to ensure they bill no more than 10 hours on these legacy 16-hour certificates. Counsel who need to bill more than 10 hours are asked to contact his/her panel officer prior to submitting the legal aid account, to provide an explanation. LAO acknowledges that there are legitimate reasons why counsel may have exceeded the 10 hours over the lifetime of the legacy certificate.

Q. Why is LAO not simply issuing a 16-hour certificate with a direction that expedites are to be billed out at 10 hours?

LAO gave consideration to this option and appreciates that this option is likely the private bar’s preferred one. However, as an institution charged with the administration of public funds, LAO must proceed with caution in discharging its responsibilities. LAO may be able to revise expedite coverage following completion of panel standards implementation, and once it becomes clear exactly how the IRB expedite process will work. LAO will therefore reassess in six months how it issues coverage for Syrian expedites to determine whether changes to our process are needed.

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