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January 26, 2022

Is it right to deny asylum seekers access to legal aid?

Mimicking a similar exodus from the Czech Republic a couple of years ago, Canada has been witnessing a sharp spike in applications for refugee status from Hungarian Roma families visiting Canada.

Until recently, legal aid used to regularly approve funding of around $3,000 to Roma claimants to hire lawyers to argue their cases at the Immigration and Refugee Board.

But, according to one immigration lawyer, that’s no longer the case. And he thinks that’s more than unfair.

The issue of Roma asylum seekers has become contentious in recent years, particularly after Immigration Minister Jason Kenney chose to label many of the claims "bogus", leading to a threat of class action suit from various Roma asylum seekers.

But just where people are from isn’t really the issue, is it? It’s simply the cost.

More than $18.5 million was spent last year by Legal Aid Ontario to help thousands of refugee claimants and immigrants fight their legal battles to stay in Canada, the Toronto Sun reports.

The documents show that more than $16 million of the amount spent on immigration went to the Refugee Protection Division, a body that determines whether a claimant is a refugee to be accepted in Canada.

That’s a big number when you consider that it’s tough for existing Canadians to qualify for legal aid to represent them in employment disputes or many other civil issues.

In fact, the whole system is a mess, says Martin Collacott, a spokesman for Canada’s Centre for Immigration Policy Reform. Here’s his take on where Canada’s immigration policy has gone horribly wrong.

Is he right? Are we off track when it comes to immigration policy? Should the public purse foot the bill for those banging on the door to get or stay in?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...