Refugee & immigration panel standards

Last updated: Monday, May 11, 2015

STATUS: CLOSED

LAO's board has approved new general and appellate standards.

Documents

General standard
Last updated: May 2015

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.


Appellate standard
Last updated: May 2015

Membership on this panel will entitle the lawyer to acknowledge refugee and immigration certificates for matters before the Refugee Appeal Division, Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Ontario Superior Court, Court of Appeal for Ontario, and the Supreme Court of Canada.


The new proposed standards: what they are and what they offer
Last updated: August 22, 2014


Background
Last updated: August 22, 2014


Best practices guide
Last updated: February 2014


Initial proposed general and appellate standards
Last updated: February 2014


Report on Nov. 2013 to Feb. 2014 consultations
Last updated: February 2014


Feedback

Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario: Response to Legal Aid Ontario's panel standards implementation proposal
Last updated: March 2, 2015


Legal Aid Ontario's response to the Refugee Lawyers Association's (RLA) submission
Last updated: March 12, 2015


Refugee and immigration stakeholders
Last updated: August 22, 2014


Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group
Last updated: February 28, 2014


Refugee Lawyers Association in Ontario
Last updated: February 2, 2014


The new standards: what they are and what they offer

The new standards are:

  • 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.

Both new standards are designed to:

  • help clients continue to access high quality legal representation
  • establish universal standards for all legal aid funded service providers, including:
    • private lawyers
    • staff lawyers and paralegals and
    • clinic staff with a refugee services agreement
  • identify the appropriate levels of expertise and experience required for different kinds of cases.

Current standards Proposed revised standards
  • One-time application to be on the panel
  • membership is indefinite, so long as member makes annual statement of continuing compliance
  • Three-year term membership
  • Must apply to renew, and demonstrate continuing compliance with quality standards

Single panel standard for all levels and types of refugee/immigration work.

Two quality standards:

  • one for first-instance RPD/immigration work
  • a second, suitable for more experienced professionals, for appellate litigation.

Only for private bar lawyers acting on refugee/immigration certificates.

For everyone who provides legal aid refugee/immigration services, including lawyers on certificates, staff lawyers, paralegals, or professionals on a service agreement with a clinic.

Only broad quality service expectations.

Quality service expectations plus mandatory compliance with a detailed best practices guide.

  • Standards are general and unspecific.
  • Monitoring of compliance is difficult.
  • Standards are specific and detailed, including clear best practices obligations
  • Monitoring and assessment of compliance potentially less difficult

Background

LAO originally developed a single set of panel standards for all refugee-related work more than a decade ago. In the opinion of the Refugee Lawyers Association and other stakeholders, these standards:

  • are too weak for todays environment
  • lack mechanisms to review compliance or take remedial action
  • fail to distinguish between the appropriate levels of expertise and experience required for different kinds of cases.

Between November 18, 2013 and February 28, 2014, LAO held public consultations to receive input on its proposal to revise the panel standards for LAO-funded refugee and immigration service providers. In total, approximately 60 people participated, via:

It collaborated with the RLA and took into consideration the concerns and feedback received to develop a second draft of the standards. It used this second draft as the basis for further consultation and development with the goal of finalizing and implementing the current minimum professional standards for LAO-funded refugee and immigration service providers.

This initiative is part of LAOs larger effort to ensure that LAO clients who are among the most vulnerable members of Ontario society receive consistently high quality legal representation. Similar panel standards projects are underway in the other areas of law served by LAO.

Both proposed new standards reflect the feedback received from stakeholders, including the Refugee Lawyers Association (RLA), the Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group, and individual members of the bar. LAO received this feedback during public consultations on a first draft during the fall and winter of 2013/14, as well as from RLA representatives in Spring 2014.

They are designed to:

  • help clients continue to access high quality legal representation
  • establish universal standards for all legal aid funded service providers, including:
    • private lawyers
    • staff lawyers and paralegals and
    • clinic staff with a refugee services agreement
  • identify the appropriate levels of expertise and experience required for different kinds of cases.

Among the main changes from the previous draft:

  • amendments to panel membership criteria, particularly the experience requirements; the standards now focus on establishing competence and expertise, rather than solely experience; they include separate categories for recent experience, historical experience and alternatives to experience
  • the mandatory refugee/immigration law Continuing Professional Development (CPD) was reduced to three hours (from six) because CPD is already a requirement for licensing by the Law Society of Upper Canada, and six hours specific to this area of law was considered too onerous for persons who may be practicing in more than one area of law.