Skip to main content

Legal access for the most vulnerable

Wow, tardy in my posting! Will attempt to make up for it.

Today, I attended a Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Immigration Section meeting. The two speakers were from Legal Aid Alberta. Richard Bennett is Legal Aid's Calgary Immigration counsel.

Legal Aid provides legal services to individuals who cannot afford to hire private lawyers. It is limited to areas of law that have a direct impact on people's lives, liberty or security. Areas such as criminal law, family law, and immigration are examples. Each province has its own Legal Aid services. Funding is provided both by the Provincial and Federal Governments to varying degrees.

Legal Aid's immigration files only account for about 3% of all their work. Some of the types of immigration services offered include:

  • Refugee Claims
  • Admissibility hearings
  • Detention reviews
  • Removal Appeals for Permanent Residents
  • Ministerial Appeals
  • Judicial Review (related to above areas)
  • Legal advice (meaning no actual representation) for matters such as extensions, H&Cs, sponsorships, appeals, and PRRAs.
In order to get Legal Aid coverage, you have to meet their income requirements. That is, you have to earn less than their established income levels. These maximum income levels are incredibly low, meaning only a handful of people will ever qualify for legal aid. For example, for a family of 4, they total family income cannot exceed $2,333 per month (net)!

Applicants who qualify will be represented by the staff lawyer, or will be referred to a "roster" lawyer (a private lawyer who registers with Legal Aid to work on files). 

I think the most common type of immigration client for legal aid are those making a refugee claim. When someone comes to Canada and makes such a claim, they have virtually no money available to them. They are not able to get a work permit for several months, typically. So, they can get some legal aid assistance at the outset. However, often times, once the client gets their work permit, they make too much money to qualify for continued legal aid. 

It's sad that Legal Aid services have dwindled so much in the immigration world. It's an area of law that is very specialized and hiring an inexperienced lawyer can be disastrous to a person's life. I suppose it's better than the alternative - not having any funding at all!


  1. Thanks for sharing this awesome post. There are so many private legal firms providing legal services. JJ Kelly Barrister is a group of experienced lawyers and provide their best services. For free consultation visit:


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

1F(b) - Exclusion from Refugee Protection

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) recently released a decision on the interpretation of Article 1F(b) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees ("Refugee Convention"). The case is Febles v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2014 SCC 68.

This case involved a refugee claimant from Cuba. He had previously been granted refugee status in the United States. While living in the US, the Applicant was convicted and served time in jail for two assaults with a deadly weapon. The US therefore revoked his refugee status and issued a removal warrant.

The Applicant then came to Canada, and made a refugee claim.


The only issue in this case was whether Article 1F(b) of the Refugee Convention (adopted into our immigration law under s.98 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act - "IRPA") barred the Applicant from refugee protection because of his past crimes.


Article 1F(b) of the Refugee Convention reads:

F. The provisions of this Convention s…

Canadian Caregiver Program Overhauled

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) recently announced major changes to the (former) Live-in Caregiver program. The former program has now been split into 2 distinct streams: Caring for Children ClassCaring For People With High Medical Needs Class
These 2 new economic immigration classes will allow those who have Canadian work experience in caring for children or for individuals with high medical needs to apply for permanent residence.
Caring for Children Class
The biggest changed this program is the removal of the “live-in” requirement for caregivers. The program allows anyone who worked full-time in the care of children to apply for permanent residence.
The program requirements are as follows:
Work experience:within the 4 years before the date of the application, have at least 2 years of full-time work experience in Canada as a home child care providerThat the job duties meet the specifications outlined in unit group 4411 of the National Occupation Classification (NOC)Language p…

Change to Age of Dependent Child to "under 22"

The Government just released Regulations amending the age of dependency from "under 19" to "under 22". However, the changes will not come into force until October 24, 2017. As such, any applications made until that date will continue to face the current definition of a child being "under 19". Nevertheless, this opens up opportunities for those who were unable to include children as dependants to sponsor those who might still be under the age of 22 when the Regulations take effect.  The Full-Text of the Regulations can be found here.