Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed to a one-time legal aid top-up of $26.8 million for refugee and immigration cases to compensate for cuts delivered by Ontario Premier Doug Ford in this year’s budget.
Trudeau made the announcement Monday at the Parkdale Intercultural Association in Toronto.
The move comes after Ford faced criticism for slashing funding for legal aid by 30 per cent. His spring budget cut Legal Aid Ontario funding by $133 million, and said the organization could no longer use provincial funds for refugee and immigration cases.
Ontario argued the refugee system is the federal government’s responsibility, so should shoulder the associated legal costs. The federal government maintained legal aid is a provincial duty.
In July, the Immigration and Refugee Board, the tribunal that adjudicates asylum claims in Canada, warned the Legal Aid Ontario cuts would lead to longer hearings, more delays and adjournments, and more missed deadlines due to applicants who don’t have a lawyer.
The Canadian Refugee Lawyers Association had urged the Liberal government to step in and fill the gap created by the Ontario legal aid cuts.