Legal Aid Ontario – Faimly Mediation Sessions

A man and woman, with eyes downcast, separated by their daughter who's hands they are holding, with witnesses in the background, stand before a magistrate and other officials in Dutch artist Van de Laar 19th century painting: The Divorce

Beginning in 2014, Legal Aid Ontario will be offering family mediation on Tuesdays by appointment at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic (RCLC). Clients or Professionals who may be interested in learning more about Legal Aid Ontario’s mediation services may attend our 1 hour, monthly, information sessions to be held at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic. Please register in advance with our receptionist: 416-741-5201.

Weekly Information Sessions

Mondays from 1:00pm-5:00pm

 

The Family Mediator, Trish Thomas may schedule mediation sessions at the Family Court at 47 Sheppard Ave. East (Yonge & Sheppard) or at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic on Tuesdays by appointment only. Trish may be contacted directly to arrange for a mediation intake appointment at 416-979-2352 ext. 5193.

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Refugee Services in Rexdale

Rexdale is located within an ‘urgent priority’ neighborhood of Toronto with a large number of new immigrant families; a demonstrated need for refugee services.

Since April 1, 2011 Legal Aid Ontario has issued 301 Certificates to clients residing in the M9W, M9V, M9R, and M9P postal code prefixes, which allow clients to seek out private immigration law services who accept LAO certificates. Nearly half of these certificates have been issued to clients who originate from Somalia and Nigeria.

US Blackhawk helicopter over Mogadishu on the Day of Rangers

PHOTO: US Department of State

Somalia has been in a de facto state of civil war since 1991 when the communist dictatorship of Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted by a coalition of rebel movements.

Nigerian troops with US C130 transport aircraft

PHOTO: US Department of State

Nigeria has been plagued by ethnic conflict and violent disputes over oil since the country regained democracy in 1999, after 33 years of military rule.

Refugee Certificates issued by LAO in Rexdale from April, 2011 to Present:

COUNTRY of ORIGIN Number of LAO Certificates Issued
SOMALIA 103
NIGERIA 43
Pakistan 16
Hungary 9
Poland 8
St. Vincent & the Grenadines 8
Afghanistan 8
Namibia 7
India 6
Hon. Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturism speaks to media Day 31st, 2010 on the proposed Balanced Refugee Reform Act, introduced in the House of Commons on March 30.

PHOTO:  Dave Abel / Toronto Sun / QMI Agency.

Balanced Refugee Reform

On 15 December 2012, important changes to Canada’s refugee determination system came into effect. The Balanced Refugee Reform Act brought many changes to the refugee protection system. Intended to deliver faster decisions, deter abuse and quickly remove persons not in need of Canada’s protection.

“Our changes will make Canada’s asylum system faster and fairer,” said Canada;s former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and current Minister for Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, The Honorable Jason Kenny. “For too long, Canada’s generous asylum system has been vulnerable to abuse. Under the new asylum system, genuine refugees fleeing persecution will receive protection more quickly. At the same time, bogus asylum claimants and those who abuse our generous system at great expense to taxpayers, will be removed much faster.”

Changes to Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

  • The Personal Information Form is now referred to as the Basis of Claim
  • 28 day time line to submit this form has been reduced to 15 DAYS
  • A hearing will take place no longer than 60 days from the day the claim is made.

This is down from the average 600 days to receive a hearing (CIC).

TIME LINE: Claim made at Port of Entry (ex. Pearson Airport)

  • Day 1- Arrive in Canada-Complete eligibility forms-have eligibility interview-receive BoC and RPD Hearing date
  • Day 10- Deadline for submitting address and telephone number to CBSA
  • Day 15: Deadline for Submitting BoC Forms to IRB-RPD
  • Day 50 (approx) Deadline for submitting all documents to the IRB-RPD
  • Day 60-REFUGEE HEARING
Terminal 1 of Pearson International Airport in Toronto, ON

PHOTO: AcidBomber at en.wikipedia (GNU Free Documentation License)

Designated Countries of Origin

DCOs are countries that do not normally produce refugees, and respect human rights and offer state protection. Claimants from a DCO will have their asylum claim heard faster (30-45 Days) and will not have access to the new Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) at the IRB.

Concerns in the context of female claimants

 With very short timelines for filing forms and for the refugee hearing many women will find they don’t have enough time to prepare for the refugee hearing. It takes time and trust to be ready to speak about traumatic experiences, especially sexual violence. Documentation of human rights abuses against women is not always readily available. It is also more difficult to meet short timelines if you are juggling childcare.

Because of the barriers to legal representation more claimants will be left unrepresented in the new system. Negotiating the refugee process without a representative is particularly difficult for women who have had limited access to education or relevant professional experience.

Woman wearing a hijab

PHOTO: luisrock62, stock.xchng

The Basis of Claim form (BoC)

The Basis of Claim Form is a crucial document that a refugee claimant must fill out for the Immigration and Refugee Board. It is used to determine if they have a valid claim. If information is missing, incorrect, or inconsistent, the Board could refuse the claim.

At the hearing, the claimant will have to answer questions about what they said on the Basis of Claim Form. A Board member who thinks that the claimant has not told the truth—for example, by inventing harm or threats—will refuse the claim.

What Rexdale Community Legal Clinic is doing

  • Prepare and file Basis of Claims with the Refugee Protection Division (RPD)
  • Prepare and represent claimants at the RPD of the Immigration and Refugee Board

Tips for Refugees and community agencies

  • If you are looking to make a refugee claim, contact Rexdale Community Legal Clinic immediately. If you are not within our catchment area we can still give summary advice and will issue appropriate referrals
  • If a client is looking to make a refugee claim, make an immediate referral to Rexdale Community Legal Clinic
  • A potential refugee should never go to CIC without seeking legal advice first-once they do the stringent timelines are triggered!
  • Please Rexdale Community Legal Clinic with any questions and we will be happy to assist

Rexdale Community Legal Clinic's Logo

GTA CLINIC TRANSFORMATION PROJECT: Monthly Newsletter September 2013

GTA CLINIC TRANSFORMATION PROJECT

Monthly Newsletter September 2013

Call for research on best practices

The GTA Transformation Project will be looking at international research and best practices for poverty law services to build on our existing literature review. Our current bibliography of research already reviewed is posted on our website – www.GTAclinics.ca. We would love to hear from you about any literature and articles that you know of that will help with this project. Email us or give us a call with anything you think is missing or to let us know of any information you’d like us to focus on.

Data Gathering Begins

Data gathering for the GTA Transformation is underway.

Since the Government changed the form for the 2011 Census, the data collected is not as helpful as the previous Census. A combination of 2011 Census data and 2010 Tax filer data will be used for most of the analysis as it will provide a fairly strong picture about where new immigrants are settling. When it is helpful, we will use the 2006 Census data to augment the other data we have.

Data will explore issues like low incomes, immigration rates and find the areas in the GTA that have the highest concentration of those circumstances.

The project will map the data and will overlay geographic data like the location of social housing and transit.

Additional data to be explored for their potential inclusion will include data on refugees, mental health survivors, Ontario Works and ODSP recipients.

A data subcommittee of the Steering Committee has been struck, with representatives from across the GTA. The subcommittee will discuss what data will be included in the data analysis of the project.

Project Workplan

The GTA Transformation Project will be working hard over the next several months to meet our project deliverables. In order to make sure that we respect the time needed to get this right, our project timelines may shift. Here’s a breakdown of our current workplan.

Deliverable

Steering Committee meeting

Data gathering of Clinics

October

Key informant interviews

Staff and client focus groups

November

Key informant interviews

Data analysis of Clinics

Literature review

December

Review of existing models

Model development

January

Key informant interviews

Infrastructure review, including IT, HR

February

Transition planning

March

Introduction to Low Income Population Data

Low income population statistics will be referred to in various contexts as we go through the GTA Legal Clinics Transformation Project. This article is an introduction to the concept, as requested by the Steering Committee.

LICO

The statistic generally used to represent the low income population in an area is Statistics Canada’s “low income cut off” statistic or LICO. Statistics Canada defines LICO as “the income below which a family is likely to spend 20 percentage points more of its income on food, shelter and clothing than the average family.” If the average family spends 43% of its before tax income on food, shelter and clothing, then the low income cut off will be families spending 63% or more of income on those necessities. That is the basic definition – the actual calculation is fairly complex and includes regression analysis. Fortunately, the data is not complex to use.

There are separate LICO’s for seven family sizes (from single persons to families of seven or more) and five community sizes (from rural areas to urban areas of 500,000 or more). This results in 35 LICO figures which are actual dollar figures. An individual or family which is below the LICO figure for the particular family size in the particular community size is considered “low income”. As Toronto, York and Peel are all communities of over 500,000, we are only concerned with the seven family size LICOs for that size of community: $23,298 for a single person.

LICO is a measure of the population which is significantly less well off than the average population – it is not intended to be a measure of “poverty”. While this may not be a perfect definition of poverty, it is the best available and the most statistically reliable. In the absence of any accepted definition of poverty, the LICO figures are regularly used by analysts as a shorthand for “low income population” and are used by the Transformation Project.

Other Measures

Other poverty measures include the Low Income Measure (LIM) which is 50% of the median household income and the Market Based Measure (MBM) which is intended to measure the minimum you need to buy food, shelter and clothing. LIM is just a measure of median incomes with no relation to what is needed to survive. MBM is a measure of absolute abject poverty. LICO is a relative measure of poverty – indicating those who are significantly worse off than the average. So far, it has been the preferred measure.

Currency of Data

All figures in this article are from the 2006 census and are thus out of date. During that time we have been through a recession. As well, there has been significant population growth in some areas of the GTA. Between the 2006 census and the 2011 census, the population of York Region has grown 16%, the Region of Peel has grown 12% and the City of Toronto has grown 4.5%. The LICO percentages may have also changed, so the change in the low income population needs to be calculated.

The GTA Transformation Project will use updated 2010 and some 2011 data, which has become available just recently.

How do I have a say?

If you are involved with a Clinic, talk to your Clinic’s Steering Committee representative about what’s happening. If you work at a Clinic you’ll be asked to have direct input. If you live in an affected community, we’ll be seeking people to participate in interviews and focus groups to give us their guidance, let us know you’d like to participate. And if you just have a really great idea, send us an email at info@gtaclinics.ca

You can stay on top of all the progress by visiting our website ww w. GT Acl i nics. ca , and have input through there as well. In the meantime, we will be putting out this newsletter once a month to let you know what’s been happening.

Thanks for taking an interest in the GTA Clinic Transformation Project.

 

GTA Clinic Transformation Project
http://www.GTAclinics.ca

REXDALE COMMUNITY HUB: Family Law Information Session

Microskills: Family Law Info Session

Paralegal Amanda Bitton: Proud to be a full-time advocate for refugee claimants

LAO newsroom

News archives

LAO Newsroom

Paralegal Amanda Bitton is proud to be a full-time advocate for refugee claimants

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Licensed paralegal Amanda Bitton has been “excited, proud and nervous” ever since Rexdale Community Legal Centre hired her in July to support refugee claimants on a full-time basis.

She’s very aware that her new job — providing frontline services to these vulnerable clients — is part of a Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) pilot agreement to fund the cost of hiring her, and demonstrate LAO’s commitment to the appropriate use of licensed paralegals.

So she sometimes loses sleep thinking of the responsibility she’s taken on.

 Amanda Bitton

High quality services are paramount

“As a regulated professional who must meet the licensing requirements of the Law Society of Upper Canada, this is an important opportunity to demonstrate that my experience, training and ethics will result in high quality services. That’s what will be paramount,” she says. “The stakes are high for me because everybody is watching. But my main concern is that they are even higher for my clients.”

Amanda’s education includes a four-year degree in political science at McMaster University. However, she actually started working at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic while she was still a student of Humber College’s two-year Paralegal Education program, from which she graduated in June 2012.

Amanda applied to the Rexdale Community Legal Centre while she was still at Humber, to provide her with work hours toward the mandatory 14-week paid work term that’s part of Humber’s licensing requirements for students in this diploma program.

She hearts Rexdale

Her work placement at Rexdale, followed by employment there between August 2012 and January 2013, gave her experience in helping out at reception and attending intakes, hearings and interviews.

“By the end of that placement, I knew there was nowhere else I wanted to work,” she says. “I just love this clinics’ underlying philosophy of trusting colleagues and clients to come up with the most effective resolutions through working together in collaboration.”

What appealed to her most? “Clients would come in, throw a bunch of papers they couldn’t make sense of onto the desk, and ask for assistance,” she explains. “I loved being able to help people determine which issues they needed to deal with to move forward, to represent them before administrative tribunals such as the Landlord and Tenant Board, and to see them walk away and feel a bit easier about their lives.”

Amanda kept coming in as a volunteer once her paid placement at Rexdale was over, and cheerfully took on even the most basic tasks. When the prospect of applying for the refugee pilot arose, she began studying the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, signed up for training on refugee law, began attending conferences on the subject, and asked to job-shadow LAO’s refugee lawyers.

Passion, a positive attitude and an astute legal mind

“We hired her because of her passion, positive attitude, commitment to our clients and incredibly astute legal mind,” recalls LAO’s Jayne Mallin, who headed up Rexdale’s legal clinic at the time.

“We had recognized very early on in Amanda’s placement, through her handling of intake and while assisting with research and factum writing – where her legal analysis was always accurate, thoughtful, and solution focused – that she is a very high quality paralegal.”

Today Amanda’s responsibilities include interviewing refugee claimants, helping them fill in the forms they need to complete to apply for refugee status in Canada, and representing these vulnerable individuals, under the supervision of a lawyer, at the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

“If my Mom had known about what community legal clinics could do for families like ours, if we’d had someone advocating for us like I can advocate for my clients, she would have had fewer struggles,”

Advocacy, accessibility and affordability

An LAO staff lawyer and LAO’s district office staff review Amanda’s paperwork once it’s completed. While Amanda is qualified to appear on her own before the RPD, an LAO lawyer will accompany her to hearings for the first six months of the pilot. This interim measure will ensure that clients are receiving high quality services and provide her with further training.

She’s pleased to be on a career path that goes back to her childhood in a single parent family. “If my Mom had known about what community legal clinics could do for families like ours, if we’d had someone advocating for us like I can advocate for my clients, she would have had fewer struggles,” she says.

“It’s all about accessibility and affordability,” she adds. “Sometimes only a lawyer can do the job. But we are a more affordable alternative in situations where a paralegal is qualified to do the same job. Here at Rexdale, I can provide quality legal services within my scope of practice for refugees whose very lives could depend on their ability to access resources and justice in a meaningful way.”

Questions

For questions or further information, please contact:

Josephine Li
Communications advisor
Phone: 416-979-2352, ext.6015
Email: lijos@lao.on.ca and/or media@lao.on.ca

http://legalaid.on.ca/en/news/newsarchive/1309-20_AmandaBitton.asp

REXDALE COMMUNITY LEGAL CLINIC: 2013 Annual General Meeting

Thanks to everyone who attended our Annual General Meeting, including our community partners Albion Neighbourhood Services, Rexdale Women’s Centre, Rexdale Community Health Centre, Somali Business Development Centre, Dejinta Beesha, Rexdale Community Hub, our staff, students, and volunteers, our board of directors, and our community!

We also appreciate and would like to acknowledge the presence of Legal Aid Ontario including Professor John McCamus, Chair of the Board of Directors , Vicki Moretti, Vice President GTA Region,  Cynthia Harper, Director of Poverty Law Services, Catherine Sutherland, Poverty Law Coordinator, and Jayne Mallin, Senior Counsel and Special Advisor to the GTA Clinic Transformation Project.

We also want to extend our gratitude to The Honorable Ted McMeekin, Minister of Community & Social Services, for providing insights into recent changes to OW and ODSP, as well as Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy.

Special thanks to the Broken Silence Dance Crew for providing entertainment!

 Director of Legal Services Ann McRae, Chair of the Board of RCLC Robert Reynolds, and Treasurer Anita Billing  Chair of the Board of Directors for Legal Aid Ontario Professor John McCamus
 The Honorable Ted McMeekin, Minister of Community and Social Services  The Minister address changes to OW & ODSP as well as Ontario's poverty reduction strategy.
 Director of Administration Itallica Battiston  Broken Silence Dance Crew
 Broken Silence Dance Crew  agm_8sml

Our Annual Report is now available online:

http://www.rexdalecommunitylegalclinic.ca/Annual_Report.pdf

LAO newsroom: LAO invests an additional $3 million in community and legal clinics

LAO newsroom

News archives

LAO Newsroom

LAO invests an additional $3 million in community and legal clinics

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

 

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is investing additional provincial funding of $3 million in 2013/14 to create two new funds that support Ontario’s community and legal aid clinics. This support includes:

LAO’s budget commitment

“…additional funding of $30 million over three years [$10 million annually, beginning in 2013/14] will be provided to Legal Aid Ontario. This funding will improve access to justice and enhance outcomes for low-income families, victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable groups by strengthening the capacity of Family Law Service Centres and other community and legal clinics across Ontario to respond to evolving needs, and ensure services are sustainable.”
— Government of Ontario Budget, May 3, 2013

  • $2 million to create a Fund to Strengthen the Capacity of Community and Legal Clinics, which will achieve the objectives of Ontario’s 2013 budget and

  • $1 million to create a Clinic Transformation Fund that will advance LAO’s clinic modernization program through clinic transformation and future savings.

This $3 million is 30 per cent of the $10 million in additional funding LAO is receiving from the government for 2013/14, as announced in the May 2013 budget. LAO will invest the remaining 70 per cent of the new funding in family law initiatives.

In addition to this $3 million, for 2013/14, LAO is also providing Ontario’s clinics with:

  • $67.8 million in core funding and

  • $4.15 million in special project funding to upgrade aging information technology infrastructure including desktops, laptops, monitors, and Microsoft Office Exchange. This support comes from a $3.25 million grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario, plus $900,000 from LAO’s own funding allocation.

 

Questions

For questions or further information, please contact:

Kristian Justesen
Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations Group
Phone: 416-979-2352, ext.4782
Email: justesk@lao.on.ca and/or media@lao.on.ca