Public proceeding of the Board
Immigration and refugee law advisory committee: Meeting minutes for November 14, 2011
John McCamus, Michael Bossin, Raoul Boulakia, Marcel Castonguay, Howard Eisenberg, Gerri MacDonald, Alyssa Manning, Sean Rehaag, James McNee
Legal Aid Ontario
Rod Strain, David Field, Maureen Murphy, Angus Grant, Heather Morgan
2. Welcome and Introductions
The Chair opened the meeting.
3. Minutes, June 23, 2011
The minutes of the June 23, 2011 meeting were approved.
4. Overview/Environmental Scan
- The Chair drew the Committee’s attention to the highlights of the overview and environmental scanning slide deck that had been circulated to the Committee. He noted that this material would not be dealt with in great detail since most of the meeting should be devoted to discussion of LAO’s Bill C-11 proposal and it was anticipated that most of the environmental scanning input at this meeting would relate to Bill C-11.
- The deficit for the current year is predicted to be in the $8 million range. This is not a fixed number, and is based to some extent on interest rates which determine the amount of Law Foundation income that LAO will receive.
- A matter of concern to LAO’s Board is the continuing erosion of the legal aid financial eligibility standard. The rate was reduced in 1995 and has not been adjusted since then. The Chair noted that a recent story in the Toronto Star had indicated that LAO had made a decision to increase the eligibility standard. While this is not actually possible for LAO to do, since the rate is set by government and not by LAO, it is the case that LAO is initiating a project to look at how the eligibility standard might be raised. The Consumer Price Index, the LAO tariff and Statistics Canada’s LICO (Low Income Cut Off) index have all increased by about a third since 1995, but financial eligibility has not changed at all. One of the things that LAO will be examining is potential sources of funding to support an increase to the financial eligibility standard.
- Members agreed that the current financial eligibility standard is too low. However, it was suggested that there is a danger in advocating for an increase in eligibility without knowing that there will be an available source of funding. It is difficult for LAO to meet the existing service demand, and it is doubtful that LAO would be able to achieve sufficient administrative savings to fund an increase in eligibility. It was suggested that LAO first work out the amount of funding that would be required, and provide the government with a costing for the increase.
- Members remarked that financial re-assessments (six-month reviews of client eligibility) no longer appeared to be occurring, and asked if there had been a change in LAO’s policy. It was felt that these re-assessments are a good thing and should be kept up, as clients do experience changes in their employment situation. LAO will follow up, and will advise the Committee whether there has been a policy change with respect to financial re-assessments for refugee clients.
5. LAO Planning for Bill C-11
- The Committee discussed confidential information regarding a planning proposal for responding to Bill C-11. The Committee was advised by the Chair that this proposal was not a formal proposal and had not been adopted by LAO.
- The LAO Director, Policy, noted that LAO is aware that the implementation landscape for C-11 may change and that this proposal had to be based on LAO’s current information about the new system.
- The proposal and the discussion about the proposal were identified by the Chair as confidential.
- The Chair thanked the Committee for its feedback and said that, at a later time, LAO will provide the Committee with a revised version of the proposal that can be shared by members with others.
5.1 Questions and follow ups
LAO will advise the Committee whether there has been a policy change with respect to financial re-assessments for refugee clients.
6. Other Business