Information for lawyers

Refugee and immigration services

LAO continues its modernization journey based on the following key principles:

  • “Phased-in” changes to refugee service delivery and implementation through regularly-evaluated pilot programs
  • On-going consultations
    • the Refugee Law Services Operations Review Committee meets monthly and consists of lawyers, paralegals, community agency, clinics, and staff, who advise LAO
    • the Refugee Lawyers Association meets bimonthly
  • Assessments of service delivery needs as phases unfold

Certificate eligibility, effective June 8, 2015

LAO has expanded legal aid coverage in refugee and immigration law in the areas of Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) applications, stay motions and deferral requests. This expanded coverage only applies to certificates issued on or after June 8, 2015.

Note to criminal counsel: Certificates are now available to the financially-eligible accused who may not reasonably be risking loss of liberty but who, if convicted, face significant secondary consequences. Among those consequences is the risk of deportation.

Centralized intake and Refugee Protection Division merit screening

LAO continues to implement its centralized intake and refugee merit assessment framework based on legal merit and likelihood of success. All refugee claimants seeking Basis of Claim (BoC) and Hearing representation services will undergo merit assessment, including claimants requesting LAO staff or clinic providers.

LAO is not using the Federal Government’s designated country of origin list to determine Refugee Protection Division (RPD) merit. A country list that LAO created is used to determine the level of merit screening required.

Claimants from countries in stream 1 with no complex factors are asked 4 questions and then in most cases, issued a BoC certificate.

Claimants from countries in stream 2 undergo a more detailed merit screening consisting of several interview questions. Some of these claimants are approved for BoC services, while some not.

Staff lawyers and legal aid workers knowledgable in refugee law, review the BoC filed with the IRB to determine whether there is sufficient merit to authorize hearing representation. Claimants not approved for BoC or hearing services are offered web information. LAO hopes to develop other service options, including summary legal advice and brief services for persons not approved for BoC or Hearing services.

The approval rate for refugee certificate applicants under this evolving merit assessment framework remains at 94 per cent.

Staff office and clinic options

Applicants without counsel

An applicant for legal aid without counsel will be presented with a choice of three service provider options (private bar, staff office, clinic), rather than being directed or “streamed” to a particular service provider. It will be up to the applicant to decide which service provider best meets his/her needs.

Quality panel: Refugee Protection Division, Refugee Appeal Division, and Federal Court

LAO's board has approved the following updated refugee panel standards:

  • A general standard for Refugee Protection Division and Immigration Appeal Division work as well as detention reviews and applications for humanitarian and compassionate consideration, pre-removal risk assessments, and danger opinions
  • An appellate standard for matters before the Refugee Appeal Division and the Courts.

Refugee Appeal Division pilot

LAO launched a RAD services pilot in March 2013. LAO staff offices and the private bar provide eligible RAD services within a fixed budget of $500,000. A RAD Review Committee assesses merit and likelihood of success of RAD legal aid applications. The RAD numbers as of September 2014 for the period March 2013-August 2014 are:

Refugee Appeal Division Report

RAD Certificates (Fees + Disbursements)

Districts # certificates Est. value # Cert accounts Actual value
Durham-Frontenac 1 $2,599 - -
GTA 208 $481,056 165 $376,019
Hamilton 12 $26,184 7 $14,391
London 5 $11,236 4 $6,691
Northwest 1 $2,599 - -
Ottawa 4 $8,909 3 $6,175
Windsor 5 $11,384 4 $9,497
Cumulative total
FYs 2013-14 & 2014-15
236 $543,967 183 $412,773

(Updated September 4, 2014)

On-going consultations

The Refugee Services Operations Review Committee meets monthly and will provide LAO with feedback on modernization including initiatives related to merit screening, referrals and panel standards. In addition, meetings are held every two months with the Refugee Lawyers Association (RLA), and twice a year with LAO Board’s Immigration and Refugee Law Advisory Committee.

Help for clients

Clients can contact the client service centre at Legal Aid Ontario’s toll-free number at 1-800-668-8258 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or visit our website for more information on refugee and immigration law, and services for refugee claimants.


If you have any questions or require further information please contact:

Jawad A. Kassab - LLB, MDiv, MBA
Executive Lead, Refugee Services Transformation
Legal Aid Ontario
Telephone (416) 979-1446 x4705
Fax (416) 979-2948

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