Amnesty International welcomes federal government decision to cover legal aid funding cuts for refugees and immigrants

Amnesty International welcomes the federal government’s decision to cover the legal aid funding cuts to services for refugees and immigrants that were announced by the Government of Ontario in April 2019. A total of $25.7 million will be allocated to Ontario, as well as $1.16 million to British Columbia, and $20,000 to Manitoba. Legal aid allows newcomers and refugees to exercise their legal rights and help navigate extremely complex areas of the law, where they would not otherwise have the financial means to hire legal counsel.
“This announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Justice David Lametti and Parliamentary Secretary Arif Virani is most welcome, and comes at a time when the immigration and refugee system – particularly in Ontario – is facing a real access to justice crisis,” said Justin Mohammed, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner. “Such legal proceedings often have serious consequences on the lives of those involved, and can even entail questions of life and death. Nobody should face such high-stakes legal proceedings without access to legal counsel.”
The announced funding is a one-time investment for 2019-2020 and will not carry over into future years.
“It is now incumbent upon the provincial and federal governments to engage in negotiations to ensure that a long-term solution is found,” he added. “Access to legal counsel cannot continue to be a patchwork across the country and should never be politicized between governments. There must be certainty and consistency when it comes to ensuring legal aid is available for refugees and immigrants in Canada.”