Legal Aid Ontario stops accepting new immigration, refugee cases

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Following a steep funding cut from the provincial government, Legal Aid Ontario has stopped accepting most new immigration and refugee clients since Tuesday.

It’s Legal Aid CEO David Field has informed staff that the province has told the agency it can only use federal funding to cover new immigration and refugee services this year.

That federal funding totals between $13 million and $16.5 million, short of Legal Aid Ontario’s projected costs of between $30 million to $34 million on the services for the year.

A government spokesman says the federal government should fulfill its responsibility to newcomers by shouldering the costs of such cases.

Field says the agency will honour clients who are already being served and will help some additional clients in limited circumstances.

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The province is reducing funding to the organization by 30 per cent, which translates into $133 million less in this fiscal year.

Meanwhile Legal Aid Ontario is hoping to offer its services to refugees and asylum seekers if the federal government funding increases for refugee legal aid in Ontario.

Mulroney’s letter also cited a drop in clientele as a reason for the funding cut. She noted the number of clients Legal Aid served declined by about 10 per cent between 2013 and 2018.

It would be interesting to find out just why the number of Legal Aid clients have been falling despite the growing number of asylum seekers in the province. -CINEWS

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