New program to enhance legal aid services for immigration detainees

Published: March 16, 2021

Legal Aid Ontario has launched a new program that uses both private practice and LAO staff lawyers to provide legal representation to all unrepresented immigration detainees in their detention review hearings.

The Immigration Detention Representation Program (IDRP) is a free service available to anyone in immigration detention in Ontario who would like representation in a detention review hearing. No application in advance is necessary as IDRP lawyers will be present at the beginning of each detention hearing to offer assistance.

The program will run for a year as a pilot and also offer training and mentorship to the lawyers doing detention work.

Immigration detainees continue to also have the option to apply for a legal aid certificate and retain any lawyer on LAO’s immigration and refugee law panel to represent them at a detention review hearing.

Increase to legal aid certificate tariff

As announced in December, LAO has also increased the number of hours available on legal aid certificates to prepare for detention review hearings. Lawyers may now bill up to three hours of preparation time for each detention review hearing, in addition to the time spent in the hearing. Previously, only one hour of preparation time was available for the second and further hearings. This change applies to all detention review certificates.

LAO has made these improvements to help reduce the number people in detention centres, who face an increased risk of being infected by COVID‑19. The pilot program was also developed to respond to the Immigration and Refugee Board’s 2018 audit report citing that Ontario had a lower rate of representation by counsel at detention review hearings, compared to other provinces.

Getting help

Clients in the following detention centres who would like to use the IDRP can contact us at the offices below. While contacting LAO in advance of the hearing is recommended, it is not necessary to receive service.

Detention centre Call Legal Aid Ontario at:

Immigration Holding Centre (Toronto)

All provincial jails in:

  • Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
  • Southern Ontario (including Hamilton, London, Milton, Niagara, Windsor)
  • Northern Ontario (including Sudbury and Thunder Bay)
  • Central Ontario (including Gravenhurst, Lindsay, Penetanguishine)

Refugee Law Office Toronto

Toll free: 855‑854‑8111

Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre

St. Lawrence Valley Correctional and Treatment Centre (Brockville)

All federal institutions in the Kingston Area

All provincial jails in eastern Ontario

Integrated Legal Services Office Ottawa

Call collect: 613‑569‑7448

Toll free: 800‑348‑0006

(Press 0 to speak to the receptionist or leave a message at ext. 4001)