Publications & Resources
Refugee and immigration panel standards consultations
Proposed refugee and immigration general standards
These are the standards for membership on Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO) Refugee and Immigration: General Panel. Membership on this panel will entitle the lawyer to acknowledge refugee and immigration certificates for:
matters before the Refugee Protection Division and the Immigration Division, as well as
submissions to the Minister, including in respect of Pre Removal Risk Assessments, Humanitarian and Compassionate applications and Danger Opinions.
Lawyers can represent clients on these certificates, and be paid in accordance with the Legal Aid Services Act, LAO’s regulations, the Tariff and Billing Handbook, and any applicable LAO policies. Staff at LAO and those providing services pursuant to a service agreement with LAO are also required to meet these standards in order to represent refugee and immigration clients and deliver these services.
Membership on this panel entitles a lawyer to use the services of LAOLAW and other LAO lawyer services, including LAO training resources that may be available.
Conditional empanelment on the Refugee and Immigration: General Panel is possible. See Section 6. The standards also include exemption clauses to allow LAO to empanel lawyers with equivalent skills.
These standards constitute the minimum requirements to join and remain on the panel, including experience and continuing professional development requirements, and LAO’s expectations regarding quality client service and best practice.
The standards include criteria for both full and conditional membership on the panel; however, meeting these criteria does not guarantee admission to the panel. LAO reserves the right to make inquiries, as it deems appropriate, to determine an applicant’s eligibility and suitability for empanelment, and may refuse empanelment or remove a person from the panel if it deems it appropriate to do so taking into account the public interest and the protection of vulnerable clients.
Panel membership is for a duration of three (3) years, unless the lawyer withdraws from the panel or membership is revoked by LAO prior to the expiry of the three year period. Panel membership can be renewed on application by the lawyer, who will be required to establish to the satisfaction of LAO that s/he continues to meet these standards, or any such standards as are in force at the time of renewal.
Membership on the Refugee and Immigration: General Panel is a prerequisite for membership on LAO’s Refugee and Immigration: Appellate Panel.
Compliance and annual reporting - panel management
All lawyers on the Refugee and Immigration: General Panel must certify their ongoing compliance with these standards (including LAO’s Quality Service Expectations, Best Practices Guide, and any applicable conditions) on an annual basis. All lawyers on this panel must also comply with the Legal Aid Services Act, its regulations and schedules, the Tariff and Billing Handbook, and LAO’s general policies, and administrative procedures. Failure to comply with LAO’s panel standards, Quality Service Expectations, or any applicable conditions may result in the lawyer being suspended or removed from the panel.
LAO may require verification of compliance with the standards at any time. All lawyers on this panel are required to co-operate fully with reasonable LAO verification requests and compliance investigations.
Panel membership criteria
Law Society Member In Good Standing
- Lawyers on the Refugee and Immigration: General panel must be licensees in good standing with the Law Society of Upper Canada.
Mandatory Related Experience
To be eligible for full membership on the Refugee and Immigration: General Panel, a lawyer must have:
- Dedicated a minimum of 25% of his/her practice to refugee law or related experience over the previous two years; and
- Prepared 10 or more Refugee Protection Division Personal Information Forms or Basis of Claim Forms in the previous two years; and
- Appeared at 10 or more Refugee Protection Division hearings in the previous two years.
The applicant will also provide to LAO:
- Copies of two recently completed Personal Information Forms or Basis of Claim Forms filed with the IRB, along with copies of the index of disclosure and decisions and reasons in those cases; and
- Names and telephone numbers of at least two experienced refugee lawyers (preferably LAO panel members) who are familiar with the applicant’s work and are willing to act as references.
To remain a full member of the Refugee and Immigration: General panel, a lawyer must maintain these experience requirements on an ongoing basis.
LAO may empanel a lawyer if the lawyer has refugee law experience that exceeds or is equivalent to the Refugee and Immigration: General experience standards. This experience could include:
- Having perfected 10 or more Refugee Appeal Division appeals, Federal Court leave applications in respect of refugee matters, or any combination thereof, within the previous two years;
- Having appeared before the Federal Court, Court of Appeal, and/or Supreme Court of Canada, in respect of 5 or more refugee matters in the previous two years;
- Having been called to the Ontario Bar and/or another provincial jurisdiction for more than two years and having been recognized for substantial recent experience in refugee law;
- Substantial experience in teaching refugee law at an accredited law school;
- Experience as a member of the Refugee Protection Division or Refugee Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Minimum Number of RPD claims
LAO shall have the discretion to remove a panel member if the panel member has not acted on a minimum of 5 RPD BoCs and 5 hearings within the previous year
Mandatory professional development
Members of the Refugee and Immigration: General panel are required to complete a minimum of six hours of continuing professional development (CPD) each calendar year in refugee law-related Eligible Educational Activities.
LAO may deem that a lawyer has met these requirements if the lawyer has professional development experience that exceeds or is equivalent to the Refugee and Immigration: General professional development standard. This experience could include:
- Teaching or publishing materials on refugee law;
- Acting as a mentor in a refugee law mentoring program established or approved by LAO;
- Having recognized and substantial recent experience in refugee law; or,
- Any other professional development experience that LAO determines appropriate.
Quality service expectations
LAO may consider a lawyer for conditional empanelment to the Refugee and Immigration: General panel if the lawyer was called to the Bar of Ontario:
- Within the previous two years, or
- More than two years prior but wishes to change his or her practice concentration to Refugee and Immigration matters.
LAO shall require a conditionally empanelled lawyer to fulfill certain conditions. The conditions are designed to ensure the lawyer acquires adequate refugee law experience before being appointed to the full panel. LAO expects conditionally empanelled lawyers to commit to fulfilling any applicable conditions within a stipulated time period.
Conditions may include:
- Working under the supervision of a mentor approved by LAO, and pursuant to a mentorship arrangement approved by LAO
- Observing three or more proceedings at the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board
- Completing refugee law or LAO-related training programs
- Successfully completing an examination or test mandated by LAO
- Attending meetings with LAO staff as required by LAO
- Any other reasonable conditions deemed appropriate by LAO.
LAO will consult with the lawyer to develop conditions that are appropriate to the applicant’s circumstances, including an applicant’s prior experience in refugee law.
LAO shall have the discretion to determine if and when a panel member is eligible to have their conditions of empanelment waived or extended, or if it is appropriate to deny the lawyer entry to the panel.
Note: Conditionally empanelled lawyers on the Refugee and Immigration: General Panel may also be considered for conditional empanelment on the Refugee and Immigration: Appellate Panel.