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Cuts to Legal Aid Ontario will cause hearing delays: Immigration Refugee Board

Last Updated Jul 16, 2019 at 1:29 pm EST

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is seen in the Ontario Legislature, in Toronto on Thursday, March 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

The tribunal that adjudicates asylum claims in Canada says it expects cuts to legal-aid funding imposed by the Doug Ford government in Ontario will lead to delays and other disruptions of refugee hearings.

The Immigration and Refugee Board has issued a notice saying the 30-per-cent cut in funding announced in April to Legal Aid Ontario will affect the board’s operations due to an expected rise in the number of refugee claimants who don’t have lawyers.

Refugee lawyers help asylum-seekers navigate Canada’s refugee system, which is unfamiliar to most migrants from far-away countries.

The board says the changes will lead to longer refugee hearings, more postponements and adjournments of hearings and more missed deadlines for paperwork.

The IRB says it will not be able to fully mitigate these effects, but is taking steps to help unrepresented migrants understand Canada’s refugee-determination processes.

These steps include being more flexible with timelines for certain cases; increasing the number of orientation sessions in Toronto to help refugee claimants prepare for their hearings; as well as expanding information available online and by telephone to asylum-seekers in Canada.