Interim changes to LAO refugee and immigration services

Published: April 15, 2019

Following the province’s April 11th instruction to Legal Aid Ontario to use only federal funding for refugee and immigration services, LAO may only use an estimated $13 to $16.5 million in current federal funds for new services this current fiscal year. LAO is permitted to use provincial dollars for transition costs.

Our projected costs for 2019‑20 refugee and immigration certificates and staff services were between $30 and $34 million prior to the announcement.

As we consult staff and stakeholders on next steps, we have had to take interim, but urgently needed action:

LAO will honour refugee and immigration certificates already issued

However, in the interim and effective immediately, to allow us to continue to offer core refugee services using federal funding, we will only issue new certificates for Basis of Claim form preparation, and have suspended issuing all other new certificates.

The Basis of Claim form is the first, and often most important, stage in the refugee process as it sets out a refugee claimant’s story and their reasons for leaving their country of origin, and sets out the legal case for their refugee claim. Basis of Claim preparation is the highest priority service and provides a strong foundation for clients to be successful in their claims.

Subject to discussions with staff and stakeholders, LAO’s staff offices in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa will focus on filling gaps, especially in appeals and for vulnerable and detained refugees.

Stakeholder consultations

Without delay, we will be holding public consultations on these interim measures and ways to reduce costs, while providing high‑quality service to as many clients as possible. The consultations will also help us determine which services to resume should federal government funding increase for refugee legal aid in Ontario, as well as provide feedback on the interim measures.