A Review of Ontario’s Borderline Unconstitutional Budget Cut
Ontario recently made a whopping 30 per cent cut to legal aid in the new 2019 budget, meaning low-income refugee families that are already suffering from marginalization and a severe lack of resources will now face even more hardships.
Legal Aid Ontario has suspended all funding for refugee lawyers, and as such, they are unable to take on new refugee claimants or other matters in support of the refugees.
Without the ability to seek out legal aid, refugees are unable to support their claim and face greater risks of deportation, prosecution, or even death in some cases.
So why were these cuts implemented in the first place?
Two-Fold Debate for Slash in Budget
Two factors can explain the debate for the budget cut. First is a matter of politics.
Ford doesn’t believe that the federal government is doing enough to prevent a refugee crisis. He continually states that our borders are out of control, even claiming Trudeau’s 2017 Tweet that kicked off the #WelcomeToCanada trend on social media is responsible for the increase of refugees over the years. From his public comments and criticism, it’s clear Ford puts the blame squarely at the federal government’s—if not the prime minister’s—feet.
Through spokespeople, the Ontario provincial government has insisted that the federal government foot the bill for the cost of dealing with irregular border crossings.
But is there actually a crisis? Are our borders out of control? The numbers suggest neither are the case. Even though the number of refugee claimants to Canada has increased, the total number remains in line with historical averages. What’s more, the number of irregular border crossings has dropped to the lowest levels since June of 2017.
Despite this data, the federal government has implemented changes to border control and how it’s managed. Human rights organizations have criticized these measures as being harsh and violating the rights of refugees.
The second reason for this dramatic provincial budget cut is a result of skewed reasoning of the far-right largely based on racism and xenophobia.
When the Ontario Conservative talks about being for “the people,” Ford is only interested in representing issues on behalf of some people. This anti-immigration, xenophobic ideology is, unfortunately, a common one among far-right politicians used frequently in propagandistic attempts to push specific agendas.
Read More: Debunking the “Criminal Immigrant” Argument
A Right to Legal Aid
Canadian constitutional law states that legal aid is a right and therefore must be provided in criminal proceedings. This results in many legal aid resources going into criminal law services. These criminal services are then expensed by legal services for low-income or at-risk individuals facing legal challenges for which they are not adequately equipped to handle themselves.
In the event that a refugee claimant cannot afford counsel, however, they are still constitutionally entitled to legal aid due to the seriousness of the case. Thankfully, advocates are trying to help those in challenging situations, during a time of need and support by the Canadian government.
It’s no surprise that when these individuals have access to high-quality refugee lawyers, the chances of a positive income are greater than those without the help of legal aid. When it comes to refugee claims, stakes are high. If not properly addressed and handled with the right resources, claimants are at risk of severe hardships that will drastically change the course of their life