CBA statement on legal aid funding announcement

  • August 12, 2019

The Canadian Bar Association welcomes today’s announcement of federal legal aid funding for refugees.

The CBA is concerned by an alarming trend across the country of budget cuts, lack of funding and service suspensions for immigration and refugee legal aid services, which has a negative impact on the most vulnerable people in our society.

“This money, along with funding earmarked in the federal budget for legal aid for immigrants and refugees, is a necessary commitment if Canada is to continue calling itself a humanitarian country, founded on the rule of law,” said CBA President Ray Adlington.

In July the CBA and OBA Immigration Law sections sent a letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and Justice Minister David Lametti asking the federal government to step in to fill the gap following the decision by the Ontario government to stop funding legal aid services for refugees and immigrants.

The letter notes that without proper legal aid funding, many refugees will lack the resources to hire an advocate to navigate Canada’s complex laws and plead their case for them. Self-representing claimants, meanwhile, place an increased burden on the system. “Without prompt and effective legal representation, refugee claimants are exposed to the risk of deportation where their lives may hang in the balance,” says the letter. “The consequences are real and cannot be overstated.”

Legal aid funding in general represents an ongoing access to justice issue in Canada. In June the CBA launched its #LegalAidMatters campaign which calls on the federal government to show leadership by making a commitment to stable, sustainable legal aid funding for everyone who needs it and adopting funding principles for a national, integrated system of public legal assistance

“We recognize that there are complex issues at play when it comes to determining funding levels, but the CBA believes federal, provincial and territorial governments all have a responsibility to show leadership on this issue,” the CBA President says.

The CBA has asked for meetings with leaders of the major political parties ahead of this fall’s scheduled election to discuss what commitments they’re prepared to make to ensure that everyone who needs access to legal help will receive it.

The Canadian Bar Association is a national association of 36,000 members, including lawyers, notaries, academics and law students, with a mandate to seek improvements in the law and the administration of justice.


2019 letter from CBA and OBA asking for increased refugee and immigrant legal aid funding

2018 letter applauding legal aid funding increases in federal budget

2017 CBA submission asking for increased refugee and immigrant legal aid funding