Wednesday, September 7, 2011


See story below from the Toronto Sun. The cost of Legal Aid in Ontario for those embroiled in refugee and criminality deportation hearings appears to be skyrocketing. Compare the current price tag to that of ten years ago and you will quickly see that things are going in the wrong direction financially. If national figures are published, they will be even higher.

The question that the public needs to address, and the politicians so far refuse to tackle should be: " Is it appropriate for the taxpayers to spend millions assisting individuals who come to Canada without status? If so, to what extent should assistance for legal representation be granted? Should it be only for the initial hearing? Or only for an appeal or review? Or both? Or should legal aid only be granted to those who have legal status in Canada and face deportation due to a criminal offence or a misrepresentation, and not to foreigners who claim refugee status? Should those already convicted in Canada of multiple offences be denied legal aid for the immigration aspects of the case that flow from their criminality? What do you think?

Legal Aid immigration cost: $18.5M Home Toronto Sun

Legal Aid immigration cost: $18.5M

By Tom Godfrey ,Toronto Sun

First posted: Tuesday, September 06, 2011 09:22 PM EDT Updated: Tuesday, September 06, 2011 09:30 PM EDT

More than $18.5 million was spent last year by Legal Aid Ontario to help thousands of refugee claimants and immigrants fight their legal battles to stay in Canada, documents show.

Critics said the use of taxpayer funds to pay high-priced lawyers to represent newcomers should be slashed because it leaves less funding and services for Ontario citizens.

They cite the case of deportee Walford Uriah Steer, 39, of Jamaica, who has 76 convictions, and is still fighting deportation from Canada after being named as a most-wanted criminal.

Some of his appeals were financed with public funds.

“This is a ton of money that is spent on immigration,” said Gregory Thomas, of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Why do they need $18 million in lawyers to protect themselves in a new country.”

Thomas said Canada has the “fairest refugee system in the world” and there’s no need for so many lawyers to be involved.

“Maybe there is a need to overhaul the refugee system,” he said. “I am surprised by the amount of money it cost for them (refugees) to ‘lawyer’ up.”

Legal Aid spokesman Feroneh Neil said that during the 2010-11 fiscal year, 12,450 certificates for refugee matters were issued.

Neil said that during the same period 7,934 cases were completed and billed to Legal Aid.

“The length of a case varies depending on the type and complexity,” she said by e-mail, adding some cases can occur quickly while others take years for a decision.

The documents show that more than $16 million of the amount spent on immigration went to the Refugee Protection Division, a body that determines whether a claimant is a refugee to be accepted in Canada.

Legal Aid had a budget of $297 million for 2010-11.

The largest portion — $104 million — was spent on criminal cases, while family issues gobbled up $51.8 million.

Ontario government officials have been pressing Ottawa to cover a larger share of costs in providing legal aid to immigrants.

They claim immigration is a federal matter that’s dealt with by federal tribunals and Ottawa should cover a greater share of the costs.

The $18.5-million tab for the 2010-11 fiscal year was about the same amount spent during the previous 12-month period.

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