Information for lawyers

Refugee and immigration services

Information for Lawyers

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
  • Assessments of service delivery needs as phases unfold

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 Panels

LAO is developing panel standards for lawyers (private bar, staff, clinics) engaged in appellate work at the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) and Federal Court. LAO is carrying out a review of the existing RPD lawyer panel standards which were created several years ago. And LAO will develop Refugee Protection Division paralegal standards, consistent with the development of standards in other areas.

The standards will ensure LAO has competent, capable legal aid providers and clients receive the best representation possible, whether the service is provided by a staff office, clinics, private bar lawyer or paralegal.

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 Pilot will be reassessed in September 2014. The RAD numbers as of November 11, 2013, are:

Districts # certificates Cert Issue Value # Cert Accounts Cert Actuals
London 2 $3,960 2 $2,368
GTA 125 $276,683 81 $182,189
Hamilton 8 $16,829 4 $7,877
Ottawa 4 $8,909 3 $6,175
Windsor 5 $11,384 4 $8,748
Grand total 144 $317,764 94 $207,357
  Budget $500,000 $182,236    

(Updated March 18, 2014)

On-going consultations

The Refugee Services Operations Review Committee meets monthly and will provide LAO will feedback on modernization including initiatives related to merit screening, referrals and panel standards.


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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