On April 11th, the Ontario Government made sweeping cuts to the legal aid budget: not only did it eliminate one third of the entire budget, it slashed 100% of the province’s funding for refugee and immigration cases.
Days later, Legal Aid Ontario discontinued all new immigration and refugee services, with limited exceptions.
Canada’s complex refugee system is nearly impossible to navigate without legal representation, especially for individuals who arrive in Canada with nothing, who are traumatized, and who do not speak English. Refugees cannot properly present their cases without a lawyer. Yet the stakes are high. One mistake and they could face deportation to the very persecution, torture, detention or death that they fled.
This is a crisis that puts people’s lives and liberty at risk. The effects will be immediate, catastrophic and irreversible.
The dreams and hard work of millions of immigrants and refugees have helped shape our society and our core values of fairness, justice and diversity. The Government of Ontario’s drastic cuts to legal aid services to immigrants and refugees fly in the face of these principles.
The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) and the Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario (RLAO) are fighting these cuts with everything we have. We cannot stand idly by hoping for a solution. We intend to challenge the cuts in the courts, meet with politicians, and raise public awareness, in an effort to have them reversed. Even though none of the money raised will go to lawyers’ fees, there are tremendous costs involved in this campaign.
You can help us right this wrong. Even $5 or $10 can make a real difference when we all come together. We are setting a goal of $10,000 because we think this is close to what we will need to fight this injustice. It will be used to advocate on behalf of refugees who need support and if there is any left over money, it will be used for CARL's future refugee justice work.
Together we can restore justice to vulnerable people. Thank you for your support! Lawyers and doctors rally at Queen's Park against provincial cut to legal aid, CBC News, May 7, 2019 Ontario’s legal aid cuts could force refugees back to the danger they fled, The Huffington Post, June 6, 2019 Cuts to Legal Aid Ontario mean asylum seekers are on their own, Global News, June 4, 2019