As the world witnesses one of the largest mass migrations due to violence, war and famine, Canada’s refugee system is experiencing a major surge.
Refugee claimants need access to legal services to help them navigate Canada’s complex system. Claimants’ rights to a fair decision-making process must be protected, especially since the stakes – including potential return to violence, torture and even death – are so high.
But Legal Aid Ontario and the provincial and federal governments are embroiled in a funding dispute that could see immigration and refugee law services cut off completely in November.
ISAC has written to the provincial Attorney General, the federal Justice Minister, and the federal Minister of Finance, with copies to Legal Aid Ontario, to express our concern that refugee claimants are caught in the middle of a dispute that they have no control over, one that could have dire consequences.
An important decision now rests with the federal government. Ontario’s Attorney General has said that the province will provide additional funds to meet the need, but only if the federal government contributes its share.
We understand that Finance Minister Morneau will be making a decision in the next several weeks.
Please take a moment to email the Finance Minister at Bill.Morneau@parl.gc.ca to express your concern about this situation and to urge him to approve the federal funding necessary to ensure that no cuts are made to Legal Aid Ontario’s refugee law services.
You can use our letters below for ideas for the content of your email.
As a legal clinic that works with low-income Ontarians, we understand the importance of access to justice for vulnerable communities. We see the long-term impacts for the communities we serve when legal supports are not available to those who need them. People seeking safety in Canada cannot be left without the critically important legal services they need.