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