Legal Aid Ontario launches program to improve legal aid services for immigration detainees

The pilot program aims to provide free legal representation in detention review hearings

Legal Aid Ontario launches program to improve legal aid services for immigration detainees

Unrepresented immigration detainees may now access the legal services offered by Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) and private practice lawyers through a recently launched program.

The Immigration Detention Representation Program (IDRP) aims to provide immigration detainees in Ontario free legal representation in their detention review hearings, as stated in LAO’s website. IDRP lawyers will be present at the start of each detention hearing, eliminating the need for an advance application.

The pilot program, which will run for a year, will also provide training and mentorship to lawyers doing detention work.

Immigration detainees may continue to apply for a legal aid certificate and retain lawyers on LAO’s immigration and refugee law panel for representation.  

Clients can access the IDRP by contacting the numbers available in LAO’s website.

Legal aid certificate tariff increased

As announced in December, LAO has increased the number of hours available on legal aid certificates to prepare for detention review hearings. Lawyers may now bill up to three hours of preparation time for each detention review hearing, apart from the time spent in the hearing. Previously, only an hour of preparation time was available for the second and successive hearings. The change applies to all detention review certificates.

According to LAO, the change was implemented to reduce the number of people in detention centres, who face an increased risk of COVID-19 infection.

The pilot program was also developed in response to the Immigration and Refugee Board’s 2018 audit report, which found that Ontario’s rate of representation by counsel at detention review hearings was lower compared to those of other provinces.

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