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
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
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


Strengthening Access to Justice for Children and Youth in East Africa – Naivasha, Kenya 2013



Plenary sessions and working groups on Tuesday, day one of the conference, discussed the barriers and the possibilities for access to justice in East Africa. The participants, from the law societies and NGOs in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, compared their shared issues related to gender. Many of the topics might have occupied a whole session: marriages involving girls between 14 and 18, child sexual and physical abuse in rural areas where there are neither police nor legal assistance, crime among the growing population of street youth, legal supports and due process for these children when arrested, inadequate correctional services for youth, an absence in many places of separate detention facilities for women and girls. Judges and those from government ministries shared in the spirited discussions.

The Canadian participants found that most of these issues resonated with the Canadian experience, although different in scale as well as in the resources to address the issues in Canada.

Girl in Kenyian Villiage


Reporting on Gender Issues from Day One flowed over into Wednesday’s agenda.

The persistent practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) was an example of an issue needing its own conference! Social and legal approaches exchanged by the East Africans, and suggestions for social change were both daunting and  enlightening for the Canadians. We did not presume to enter this discussion but listened avidly. This issue is alive among populations recently migrated to Canada. As the East African participants emphasized, changes must come, but they will evolve over time, with education and community leadership from those with influence.

Mtaib Mtaib, CEO of the Zanzibar Law Societyn addresses delegates on needs assessment work in Tanzania. To his right, Joan Onyango, staff lawyer of Kenya Law Reform Commission and Elizabeth Wilson, Manager, International Development, Operations and Gender program, Canadian Bar Association.

Mtaib Mtaib, CEO of the Zanzibar Law Society addresses delegates on needs assessment work in Tanzania. To his right, Joan Onyango, staff lawyer of Kenya Law Reform Commission and Elizabeth Wilson, Manager, International Development, Operations and Gender program, Canadian Bar Association. ANN MCRAE

East African organizations, both NGOs and governments, typically have very limited resources, but they have opportunities to partner with funding organizations from the family of United Nations agencies such as UNICEF. Also, there are foundations and government aid agencies in almost all developed countries (such as DFATD, former known as CIDA, in Canada). Support for this conference provided by Canada’s DFATD through the Canadian Bar Association means that the local law societies can gain tools for needs assessment, outcome measures and planning processes. Such skills and tools will ensure the effectiveness and impact of each development dollar brought by funders.

Mary Marrone lead off the discussion of needs assessment, defining the goals and terms used, for those unfamiliar with conducting a detailed assessment of need. The local working groups then described how this plays out in their regions: How long will it really take to travel to each village? How and when can one  interview the women if they are not expecting you, and they are in their fields doing farm work? How does one identify which local leaders, men and women, can provide information about children’s issues? When is it appropriate to send the adults away, and ask the children about their concerns?

The depth and breadth of unaddressed social and legal needs could easily lead one to despair. The stories of sexual abuse and assault of children, as gathered by a modestly-resourced group in Uganda, and recounted by the conference participants, were only a narrow slice of a much wider socio-legal need. In the face of this, the commitment of the working groups to gather this data, to assemble it into persuasive reports, is impressive. They understand how necessary these data and reports are to lever systemic changes and funding for services. They also accept that access-to-justice projects cannot proceed everywhere at once, so they aim to make changes in installments: pilot projects to extend information and rights-based advocacy may lead to more wide-spread access to justice in the future.

Mary Marrone describes how the needs assessment model used by the CBA in various countries was developed during the expansion of legal clinics in Ontario in 2000 -2001.

Mary Marrone describes how the needs assessment model used by the CBA in various countries was developed during the expansion of legal clinics in Ontario in 2000 -2001. ANN MCRAE

For some relief from the weighty discussions, the conference site offers unparalleled nature-watching. The air is filled with coos, whistles, warbles and shrieks. Large and tiny birds are walking around, twittering in the trees, and soaring overhead in dozens, maybe hundreds of varieties, from the tiniest finches to eagles, pelicans, storks and cranes. A small  herd of waterbuck and a few gazelles and antelope wander through the grounds. A group of hippos comes ashore from Lake Naivasha daily (and nightly) to graze at the resort, to the fascination of conference guests.

Gazelle, impala, topi & hartebeest at Masai mara


Ann McRae is the Director of Legal Services at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, Toronto ON, Canada.

Mary Marrone is the Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at the Income Security Advocacy Centre, Toronto ON, Canada.

Mtaib Mtaib is the Chief Executive Office of the Zanzibar Law Society, Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Joan Onyango is a Staff Lawyer with the Kenya Law Reform Commission, Nairobi, Kenya.

Elizabeth Wilson is the Manager of Operations and Gender Programing with the Canadian Bar Association’s International Development Committee, Ottawa ON, Canada.

External Links:
Lawyers call for harsh laws to curb sexual offences
Regional Lawyers Champion Childrens’ Rights
What can Canadian lawyers contribute to a legal conference in Kenya?
Kenya Law Reform Commission
East Africa Law Society

Strengthening Access to Justice for Children and Youth in East Africa – Naivasha, Kenya 2013

Conference attendees gathered at the end of day one.

Conference attendees gathered at the end of day one. FACEBOOK / AARON BESIGYE, UGANDA LAW SOCIETY

Legal experts are meeting in Naivasha, Kenya, this week to discuss strengthening access to justice for children and youth in East Africa. The forum, organized by Supporting Access to Justice for Children and Youth in East Africa (SAJCEA), the Canadian Government, and the Canadian Bar Association, is joined by our own Director of Legal Services, Ann McRae. She took some time today to let us know how the first day of the conference shaped up:

The conference began on the bus trip along the rift valley: participants from East African countries had gathered with the Canadian visitors at the offices of the Kenya Law Society in Nairobi. Lively conversations had already begun before the bus was loaded for the trip to Lake Naivasha, the conference site.

Legal aid here is largely provided by pro bono lawyers, or by non-government agencies (NGOs).

The focus of this conference is the protection of the rights of children and young people in the criminal justice process, as well as other areas of law. What legal services are available are a combined effort of the bar, the governments and partner agencies. The result is a patchwork with many gaps, with great variation from one country to the next. For example, some “legal clinics” and “community legal workers” exist, but often not working with lawyers.

Mary Marrone (Income Support Advocacy Centre) and Aaron Besigye (Uganda Law Society)

Mary Marrone (Income Support Advocacy Centre) and Aaron Besigye (Uganda Law Society) ANN MCRAE

Kenya has a new constitution as of 2010, and with that comes new social and political priorities. Efforts of projects like this one are needed to extend legal and constitutional protections to the most vulnerable. Today the East African working groups are reporting on progress so far in their respective countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), whether on law reforms, coordinated training for paralegals or access to government supports. Tomorrow Mary Marrone, Income Support Advocacy Centre, leads a discussion on needs assessment as an essential phase in any planning for change and improvement of access to justice. Later in the conference, Emily Chan, Justice for Children and Youth, will share techniques and best practices in public legal education on access to justice for children. A panel on the use of paralegals, on the third day, will give Ann McRae of Rexdale Community Legal Clinic (Legal Aid Ontario) an opportunity to compare the Ontario model with those of other jurisdictions.

A visit to the conference grounds by three hippos on the first evening was a slight distraction.

Hippo in the water


Everyone at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic is proud and excited that Ann is joining this international group of experts deliberating on Access to Justice for youth in East Africa. Access to Justice is a world-wide issue, and was a major focus of the Canadian Bar Association’s 2013 Canadian Legal Conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We look forward to hearing more from Ann in the coming days.

Ann McRae is the Director of Legal Services at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, Toronto ON, Canada.

Mary Marrone is the Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at the Income Security Advocacy Centre in Toronto ON, Canada.

Emily Chan is the Community Development Lawyer with Justice for Children and Youth, Toronto ON, Canada.

Aaron Besigye is an Advocate with the Legal Aid Project of the Uganda Law Society, Kampala, Uganda.

External Links:
Daily National (Kenya): Children’s rights conference set for Naivasha


Press Conference

After meeting and preparing statements last night, members of the Rexdale Community, largely members of the Somali community affected by the raids conducted by Toronto Police Services and police from across Southern Ontario on Dixion Road last Thursday, held a press conference at the Rexdale Community Hub today to condemn police actions during the raids.

“Community members are angered by the destruction of property and disrespectful remarks made by some officers and the police brutality that they were subject to,” said Mahad Yusuf, executive director of Midaynta Community Services.

“The community has been further stigmatized by the careless actions of some officers involved in the raid, and the irresponsible conduct of Toronto’s disgraced mayor,” Margaret Parsons said. Parsons also made the allegation that the police choice to target the Dixon community was based on recent media attention connecting Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to residences suspected to be bases in Rexdale’s drug trade, and the now infamous video which allegedly shows Rob Ford smoking from a glass pipe, although the video’s existence has still yet to be proven. Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair had disclosed previously that investigators had herd subjects of their investigations discussing the video several weeks ago over wire-taps that had been in place for nearly a year.

Dixon residents in attendance accused police of kicking down doors at random, carrying out unlawful assaults of building residents not subject to arrest warrants, carrying out unlawful arrests without warrants, uttering racial slurs, and needlessly destroying property.

However, not all Somali residents were in agreement with the panel. Margaret Parsons’ call for residents to thank the leaders of the Somali community prompted one woman in attendance to vocalize her distrust of Somali leaders, urging those in attendance to ‘recognize and address the corruption within the Somali community’. This created a huge uproar among those in attendance with many of them calling for the woman to be removed from the public gathering.

Mike McCormack, President of the Toronto Police Association,  stated in a televised interview following the press conference that the police take all allegations of misconduct seriously, but that many of the residents were ‘victims of their own families’, asserting that drug traffickers intentionally resided with family members to shield them from police investigations. McCormack went on to say that the community at large ‘thinks we did a good job’.

Toronto Police Services 23rd Division’s Community Relations Officer, Constable Parm Rai, could not be reached for comment.

As a result of Project Traveller 44 arrests were made, 224 charges laid, 40 weapons seized, $500,000 in cash and an estimated $3,000,000 (street value) in narcotics. How much of those arrests and seizures took place on Dixon Road is unclear, with raids being conducted on nearby residences on Mercury Road, and at least eight of those arrested being residents of the City of Windsor.

The African Canadian Legal Clinic, after meeting with members of the community, Somali community services agencies, and the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, prepared this press release prior to today’s conference:

Toronto: June 17, 2013

At 3:00 a.m. on June 13, 2013, units located at 320, 330, 340, 380, and 390 Dixon Road were raided by Toronto Police, as part of a police investigation dubbed “Project Traveller”. “In the aftermath of the raids, many community members feel victimized, vilified and traumatized as a result of the reckless manner in which officers forcibly entered their homes. Community members are angered by the destruction of property and disrespectful remarks made by some officers and the police brutality that they were subject to,” says Mahad Yusuf, Executive Director of Midaynta Community Services.

While the raids were intended to target criminal elements in the Dixon community, the actions of the TPS labeled and profiled the entire Somali community on Dixon Road as possible criminal elements. “This is particularly hurtful to a community already reeling from systemic barriers to services due to the combined impact of anti-Black racism, and Islamophobia. The community has been further stigmatized by the careless actions of some officers involved in the raid, and the irresponsible conduct of Toronto’s disgraced Mayor,” stated Margaret Parsons, Executive Director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic.

Residents shared stories about the raid with community leaders at a Town Hall meeting held at 320 Dixon Road on June 15, 2013. “Instead of providing additional resources, or hiring trauma counselors from within the community to heal the collective wounds caused by the raid, an increased level of policing has been deployed in the community. This only serves to further perpetuate fear in an already victimized and traumatized community,” says Yusuf.

At the community meeting several disheartening stories were shared. In one horrifying example, a 100 year old community Elder was so shocked by the raid on her unit she fell to the ground and was not assisted by officers. Her daughter, who is also a senior citizen, was cuffed, pushed to the ground and kicked by officers while her pleas for water to control her high blood pressure were ignored. Another 65 year old woman, who recently immigrated to Canada just 3 months ago, was also cuffed. Children as young as 10 years old woke up to guns pointed at their heads. “All of this has caused near irreparable damage to community police relations and has entrenched the feelings of indignity amongst residents,” says Yusuf.

In July 2012 the African Canadian Community responded to the Danzig Street and Eaton Centre shooting by calling for sustainable funding to the African Canadian community for social development programs. “Rather than heeding the call made by community leaders and organizations, the response has been further criminalization and racial profiling of our community. Clearly, nothing has changed,” said Parsons.

For further information contact:

Mahad Yusuf, Executive Director
Midaynta Community Services
(T): 416-544-1992 Ext. 229
(C): 416-702-8056
Roger Love, BA., J.D. Advice Counsel
African Canadian Legal Clinic
(T): 416-214-4747 Ext. 25
(C): 647-294-1583

18 KINO STREET EAST, SWTE 901, T0RONTO, ONTARIO M5C1C4 TEL: (416) 214-4747 FAX: (416) 214-4748

Somali Canadians…
Fact Sheet

Canada has one of the largest Somali populations in the western world, with the census reporting 37,785 people claiming Somali descent, though unofficial estimates place the figure as high as 150,000. Somalis tend to be concentrated in the southern part of the province of Ontario, especially the Ottawa and Toronto areas. The Albertan cities of Calgary and Edmonton have also seen a significant increase in their respective Somali communities over the past five years. In addition, the neighborhood of Rexdale in Toronto has one of the largest Somali populations in the country. In the early 1990s, Canada saw an increase in the total number of Somali immigrants entering the country, with some secondary migration from the United States.

As with many other immigrant groups in the Toronto area, Somalis have faced some barriers to employment despite counting many qualified professionals; This has been attributed to enclave economies, self-employment, language unfamiliarity, and various public policies and social programs.

The Drop out Rate
•        The Toronto District School Board Grade 9 cohort study looking at Fall 2000 students found that the highest dropout rates (according to student 9 language) were Portuguese, Spanish and Somali speaking students.
•        Somali community has a 36.7% drop out rate which is the second highest in Toronto

Criminal Justice
•        Generation 1.5 – are the second generation Somali youth who came to Canada at a young age
•        Because of the various forms of discrimination faced by their parents, Somali second generation youth have difficulties integrating into Canadian society
•        High Unemployment Rate: Even with high school diploma or university degree, Somali males were unemployed (Gariba, 2009)
•        Unemployment is significant barrier for young Somali community, as a result, many Somalis migrated west
•        Unfortunately, a result, over 59 Somali male5 who moved to Edmonton for employment opportunities have died
•        This puts the homicide rate in the Edmonton Somali community higher than the national homicide rates in high-risk countries like Panama, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.

Social Housing: The issues
•        10 year wait list for affordable housing. Affordability: families spend 50% or more of income on rent.
•        Overcrowding: small spaces housing 6 people
•        TCH property aging and in deplorable condition, while the landscape outside is poorly maintained and offers no space to socialize.

“When you live in a bad neighborhood, not even the advantages of family, intellect, and ambition can protect you from the violence that threatens your community.”


•        Long-term implication of the initial settlement experience.
•        English proficiency a deterrent.
•        Lack of affordable child care Foreign skills hard to get accredited.

•        Over 80% of the Somali-Canadian community is under 30.
•        Negative perception oft he community.
•        Institutionalized discrimination based on name or address.
•        Unemployment rate hovers at 70 % in Toronto alone.
•        Lack of opportunity = Endemic disenfranchisement
•        No networks/human capital to tap in.

For more information please contact:
Amina Noor
Somali Youth outreach Worker
Midaynta Community Services
(416) 544-1992 or

External links: