By halifaxwebcam November 28, 2013 Leave a Comment
Refugee. Photo credit here.

Refugee. Photo credit here.

Legal Aid Ontario is proposing cutbacks that will remove funding for immigrants from “safe” countries to have legal representation free of cost for themselves. Refugee and immigration attorneys are up in arms over this proposed change according to an article in TheStar.

They state the following about the proposed change:

 

“The plan is to stop paying lawyers to prepare and appear at asylum hearings for refugees from the 35 designated “safe” countries, who now face expedited processing and removal.”

 

What would this mean for said refugees? Well, many refugees, like the one featured in the story, Alfonso, will not be able to afford legal representation by a lawyer. Alfonso successfully applied for asylum from Mexico due to one of the many unfortunate facts about Mexico: corruption.

 

What Does This Mean For Future Refugees?

 

Well, it could mean one of two things:

  1. They will not get any legal representation and find themselves having to return to their home country.
  2. They will receive sub-par legal representation, perhaps by a paralegal or some other quasi-lawyer type position that is substantially cheaper.

“One concern for the lawyers is the proposal to use paralegals — who must work under supervision of practicing lawyers.”

 

While paralegals don’t necessarily do law, they are probably a better option than returning to a corrupt regime in a country that doesn’t care about protecting you.

 

According to the article, the refugee lawyers feel this is “the exact opposite of what Legal Aid Ontario should be doing.” In turbulent times like these, they should be stepping up to insure all refugees have sufficient and adequate legal representation upon arriving in Canada.

 

However, Legal Aid Ontario sights budget issues and claims that they must look for innovative and out-of-the-box new ways to handle these cases. While the caseloads have gone down substantially over the last few years, due in part to a new system as well as a streamlined process, the fact remains that the refugees themselves will not be able to pay for these legal fees without some assistance.

 

The case loads for 2007-2011 are listed below:

  • 2007 – 9,163 11,406
  • 2008 – 10,184 12,710
  • 2009 – 10,024 12,912
  • 2010 – 9,508 12,454
  • 2011 – 10,059 13,611

 

Hopefully, the downward trend continues as more people are able to stay in their home countries or find alternate routes to safety.

 

Alfonso puts it best when he says it this way:

 

“Refugees flee with nothing. We have no knowledge of the refugee system. It would be impossible for us to represent ourselves at hearings,”

 

As of now, it’s only speculation as to what the outcome will be. All of us here at halifxwebcam, however, surely hope it will be resolved soon and in a mutually beneficial way for all parties involved.

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