Publications & Resources

Refugee and immigration panel standards consultations

Publications & Resources

Proposed refugee and immigration appellate standards


These are the standards for membership on Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO) Refugee and Immigration: Appellate Panel. Membership on this panel will entitle the lawyer to acknowledge refugee and immigration certificates for matters before the Refugee Appeal Division, Immigration Appeal Division, Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Ontario Superior Court, Court of Appeal for Ontario, and the Supreme Court of Canada.

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 LAO LAW and other LAO lawyer services, including LAO training resources that may be available.

Membership on the Refugee and Immigration: General panel is a prerequisite for membership on the Refugee and Immigration: Appellate panel. Conditional empanelment on the Refugee and Immigration: Appellate Panel is possible. See Section 6.

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.

The standards also include exemption clauses to allow LAO to empanel lawyers with equivalent skills.

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.

Compliance and annual reporting - panel management

All lawyers on the Refugee and Immigration: Appellate 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 Refugee: General panel standards, 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, Best Practices Guide, or any applicable conditions may result in the lawyer being suspended or removed from the panel. LAO may require verification of compliance 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: Appellate 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: Appellate Panel, a lawyer must have:

  • Dedicated a minimum of 50% of his/her practice to refugee and immigration law or related experience over the previous two years
  • Prepared 10 or more perfected Refugee Appeal Division appeals, Federal Court Applications for Leave and for Judicial Review in respect of refugee or immigration matters, and/or Federal Court motions to stay removal in the previous two years; and
  • Appeared at 5 or more judicial review and/or stay motion hearings in the Federal Court in the previous two years

The applicant will also provide to LAO:

  • Copies of two recently completed and filed RAD, JR or stay motion records, including the indices, affidavits, and memoranda of argument, along with copies of the decisions and reasons in those cases
  • Names and telephone numbers of 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: Appellate panel, a lawyer must maintain these experience requirements on an ongoing basis.

LAO’s Discretion

LAO may empanel a lawyer if the lawyer has refugee and/or immigration law appellate experience that, while falling below the stipulated experience requirements set out in section (b), nevertheless demonstrates superior knowledge and experience that exceeds or is equivalent to the Refugee and Immigration: Appellate experience standards. This experience could include:

  • Having appeared before the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court of Canada in respect of 5 or more refugee or relevant immigration matters in the previous two years
  • Having equivalent appellate experience in a related area of law

Mandatory professional development

Members of the Refugee and Immigration: Appellate 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: Appellate professional development standards. 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.

Quality service expectations

Panel members are required to comply with LAO’s “Refugee: General Panel Standards Quality Service Expectations” (Appendix A), and LAO’s “Best Practices Guide” (Appendix B).

Conditional empanelment

LAO may consider a lawyer for conditional empanelment to the Refugee and Immigration: Appellate panel if the lawyer was called to the Bar of Ontario:

  • Within the previous four years, or
  • More than four 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 appellate 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 five or more proceedings at the Federal Court, following thorough review of the written record;
  • Completing appellate advocacy training programs
  • 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: General Panel may also be considered for conditional empanelment on the Refugee and Immigration: Appellate Panel.