Minimum experience requirements for refugee and immigration appellate services

Minimum experience requirements

1. Law Society Member In Good Standing

Lawyers authorized to provide Refugee and Immigration: Appellate legal aid services panel must be licensees in good standing with the Law Society of Ontario.

2. Demonstrated competence in appellate level refugee/immigration law

To be authorized to provide Refugee and Immigration: Appellate legal aid services, a lawyer must demonstrate competence in refugee/immigration law. There are several ways to demonstrate competence.

  1. Recent experience

    While not determinative, having significant recent experience in refugee/immigration law at the appellate level may be an indicator of competence. A lawyer will be deemed to have significant recent experience if, in the past two years, s/he has dedicated a minimum of 50% of his/her practice to refugee/immigration law, and during that time has completed 10 or more of any combination of the following:

    • Refugee Appeal Division appeals
    • Perfected Federal Court Applications for Leave and for Judicial Review of RPD, RAD, PRRA or Danger Opinion decisions
    • Federal Court motions to stay removal
    • Federal Court judicial review hearings in respect of RPD, RAD, PRRA or Danger Opinion decisions
    • Appeals before the Federal Court of Appeal in respect of refugee/immigration law matters
  2. Historical experience

    Likewise relevant but not determinative of appellate competence is significant historical experience in refugee/immigration law at the appellate level. A lawyer will be deemed to have significant historical experience in refugee/immigration law at the appellate level if, during at least five of the past seven years, s/he has dedicated a minimum of 50% of his/her practice to refugee/immigration law, and during that time has completed 25 or more of any combination of the following:

    • Refugee Appeal Division appeals
    • Perfected Federal Court Applications for Leave and for Judicial Review of RPD, RAD, PRRA or Danger Opinion decisions
    • Federal Court motions to stay removal
    • Federal Court judicial review hearings in respect of RPD, RAD, PRRA or Danger Opinion decisions
    • Appeals before the Federal Court of Appeal in respect of refugee/immigration law matters

Supporting documents

All applicants, regardless of experience, will be required to 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.

All applicants are requested to provide the names and telephone numbers of two experienced refugee lawyers (preferably LAO roster members) who are familiar with the applicant’s work and are willing to act as references. This requirement can be waived if the applicant is reasonably unable to provide such references.

LAO’s Discretion

LAO retains the discretion to decline to authorize a lawyer to provide immigration and refugee appellate services, even if the lawyer meets or exceeds the recent and/or historical experience threshold, if the lawyer fails to demonstrate to LAO’s reasonable satisfaction that s/he is competent in refugee/immigration law or if, in LAO’s opinion, it is in the public interest to refuse to do so.


Mandatory professional development

Lawyers authorized to provide immigration and refugee appellate legal aid services are required to complete a minimum of three hours of continuing professional development (CPD) each calendar year in refugee law-related Eligible Educational Activities.

LAO may deem that a lawyer has met this requirement if the lawyer has professional development experience that exceeds or is equivalent to this 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

Lawyers are required to comply with the following “Refugee and Immigration: Quality Service Expectations:”

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) expects lawyers to act professionally, competently, and effectively, when representing legally aided clients.

The Law Society of Ontario’s Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) as they relate to lawyers reflect LAO’s expectations regarding lawyers’ duties to both the courts and to clients.

In particular:

Rule 2 “Relationship to Clients”

  • Competence
  • Quality of Service
  • Confidentiality
  • Avoidance of Conflicts of Interest,
  • Withdrawal from Representation; and

Rule 4 “Relationship to the Administration of Justice”

The duty to act competently requires ongoing education and reflection upon one’s work.

  1. LAO expects every lawyer authorized to provide immigration and refugee appellate legal aid service to have knowledge of and, acting in the client’s best interests, competently apply:

    • The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), and other relevant legislation/law
    • The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
    • The Rules of Professional Conduct (Law Society of Upper Canada)
    • The IRB Rules of Practice and Chairperson’s Guidelines
    • The Federal Courts Act
    • The Federal Court Rules
    • The Federal Court Immigration and Refugee Protection Rules
    • Significant jurisprudence
    • UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status
    • Canada Evidence Act
    • Interpretation Act

    And to provide quality representation considering:

    • A reasonable client of modest means
    • Specific issues relating to vulnerable clients including survivors of torture
    • Privilege
    • Confidentiality
    • Respect for the clients instructions
    • Effective communication with clients using plain language
    • Cultural and linguistic barriers
    • Essential advocacy and tribunal skills including but not limited to: review of the refugee claim, research, advising the client, careful preparation of the documentation, strategizing, evidence gathering and disclosure, preparation for the hearing, preparation of the client, effective advocacy within the bounds of professional obligations.
  2. LAO expects a lawyer authorized to provide immigration and refugee appellate legal aid service to represent his/her clients effectively and ethically considering the following:

    • Knowing each of the elements of the claims
    • Good familiarity with all of the evidence
    • Knowledge of hearing procedures
    • Effective interviewing skills
    • Careful and timely review of disclosure
    • Research on current country conditions
    • Knowledge of current jurisprudence relating to the country and issues raised by the claim
  3. Know your limits

    • Accept only those cases for which you have the knowledge and experience to offer quality representation [Rule 2.01 RPC]
  4. Adhere to LAO’s “Best Practices Guide” to ensure that clients are provided with high quality legal services.


Best practices guide

Lawyers are required to comply with the following “Refugee and Immigration: Appellate Panel Standards Best Practices Guide:”

General principles

In providing quality service to clients, the lawyer shall endeavour to communicate with the client in plain language to their understanding and:

  • Advance the client’s case
  • Provide the client with the information necessary to make informed decisions respecting his or her representation
  • Respond promptly to reasonable inquiries from the client
  • Make reasonable efforts to accommodate clients with special needs, including those who require interpreters and those with literacy or mental health issues
  • Act professionally with civility and decorum
  • Avoid unreasonable delays consistent with effective representation in the client’s best interests, and a lawyer’s duty as an officer of the court
  • Act reasonably and refrain from pursuing issues that have no real prospect of success and that fail to advance the client’s interests.

In addition, the lawyer shall have knowledge of and familiarity with relevant provisions of:

  • Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • Convention relating to the Status of Refugees
  • Convention Against Torture
  • Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
  • Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations
  • Rules of the Refugee Protection Division
  • Rules of the Refugee Appeal Division
  • IRB Chairpersons Guidelines
  • Relevant provisions of the Federal Courts Act
  • Relevant provisions of the Federal Court Rules
  • Federal Court Immigration and Refugee Protection Rules
  • Leading jurisprudence in refugee law and relevant areas of immigration law

Best Practices

  • The lawyer (or person acting under her or his direct supervision) should in most cases meet with the client at the first opportunity to explain the legal process, obtain the record below and any available and permissible new evidence, and explore possible issues for argument.

  • At this first meeting and all subsequent meetings, the lawyer and anyone acting under her or his supervision should be alert to potential linguistic, cultural or mental health issues that could affect the giving of instructions and/or the preparation or substance of the case. The lawyer should make reasonable accommodations or take reasonable steps, such as providing an interpreter, or providing appropriate referrals to medical or mental health practitioners and/or other relevant community resources. In some cases LAO may authorize translations, interpretation, medical or psychological reports.

  • The lawyer should ensure that the client understands generally the procedures, role and powers of the relevant tribunal or court, and should be provided with a realistic assessment of likelihood of success and possible legal alternatives and/or recourses.

  • The lawyer must at all times remain alert to potential and actual conflicts of interest that would result in an inability to represent the client.

  • As soon as possible after the first meeting, when necessary and appropriate, the lawyer should seek relevant disclosure from previous counsel and from the first instance tribunal, and may also, in appropriate circumstances, seek disclosure under the Privacy Act of the client’s file from the IRB, CIC, CBSA, and/or CSIS.

  • The lawyer must make every effort to meet statutory and/or court-imposed deadlines. If a deadline is missed through no fault of the client, the lawyer must make best efforts to protect the client’s rights and must accept responsibility before the tribunal or court when appropriate.

  • Prior to finalizing a record, a lawyer should develop a sensible and coherent theory of the case, and should prepare clear and effective written submissions in support of the matter, addressing the relevant legal, factual and evidentiary issues raised by the application and relying on appropriate jurisprudence.

  • Evidence and written submissions should be disclosed in a timely manner.

  • In both written arguments and at any hearing, the lawyer is expected to represent the client’s interests fearlessly and competently, including by bringing relevant motions, raising objections where necessary or appropriate, and providing fulsome but appropriate submissions addressing all the “live issues” at stake.

  • As a general matter, lawyers should take advantage of statutory opportunities to file submissions in reply.

  • The lawyer or her staff should keep the client apprised of any significant developments in the case.

  • The lawyer should advise the client of the outcome of the case, explaining it where necessary, and should advise the client of the availability of further procedures.



Appendix A: Quality service expectations

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) expects lawyers to act professionally, competently, and effectively, when representing legally aided clients.

The Law Society of Ontario’s Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) as they relate to lawyers reflect LAO’s expectations regarding lawyers’ duties to both the courts and to clients.

In particular:

Rule 2 “Relationship to Clients”

  • Competence
  • Quality of Service
  • Confidentiality
  • Avoidance of Conflicts of Interest,
  • Withdrawal from Representation; and

Rule 4 “Relationship to the Administration of Justice”

The duty to act competently requires ongoing education and reflection upon one’s work.

  1. LAO expects every lawyer authorized to provide immigration and refugee appellate legal aid service to have knowledge of and, acting in the client’s best interests, competently apply:

    • The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and related legislation, regulations and rules of the tribunal
    • The Federal Court Act
    • The Federal Court Rules
    • The Federal Court Immigration and Refugee Protection Rules
    • The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
    • The Rules of Professional Conduct (Law Society of Upper Canada)
    • Significant relevant jurisprudence
    • UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status
    • Canada Evidence Act
    • Interpretation Act

    And to provide quality representation considering:

    • A reasonable client of modest means
    • Specific issues relating to vulnerable clients including survivors of torture
    • Privilege
    • Confidentiality
    • Respect for the clients instructions
    • Effective communication with clients using plain language
    • Cultural and linguistic barriers
    • Essential advocacy and tribunal skills including but not limited to: review of the record, early identification of the issues, thorough legal research, effective litigation strategies, persuasive written and oral communication, proper preparation, effective advocacy within the bounds of professional obligations.
  2. LAO expects every lawyer authorized to provide immigration and refugee appellate legal aid service to represent his/her clients effectively and ethically considering the following:

    • Knowing each of the elements of the claims
    • Good familiarity with all of the evidence
    • Knowledge of hearing procedures
    • Careful and timely review of the record
    • Legal research
    • Knowledge of relevant legal principles and current jurisprudence
    • Rules of evidence
    • Effective and timely research on country conditions
  3. Know your limits

    • Accept only those cases for which you have the knowledge and experience to offer quality representation [Rule 2.01 RPC]
  4. Align with LAO’s ‘Best Practices Guide’ to ensure that clients are provided with high quality legal services.

Appendix B: Best practices guide

Relevant legislation and resources

  • The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and associated regulations
  • The Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • Convention related to the Status of Refugees
  • Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • Rules of the Refugee Protection Division, Immigration Division and the Immigration Appeal Division
  • Federal Court Act
  • Federal Court Rules
  • Federal Court Immigration and Refugee Protection Rules
  • Criminal Code
  • Citizenship Act
  • Canada Evidence Act
  • Interpretation Act

Other sources

  • Significant relevant jurisprudence in the field of refugee, immigration, administrative and constitutional law
  • IRB Chairperson’s Guidelines
  • Relevant chapters of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Operations Manual
  • UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees
  • Applicable UNHCR Guidelines
  • James C. Hathaway. The Law of Refugee Status
  • Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, The Refugee in International Law