An Analysis of Immigration and Refugee Law Services in Canada

Part Two: Immigration and refugee law services provided by community organizations (continued)

Saskatchewan

Three organizations serving refugees and immigrants were interviewed in Saskatchewan: the Prince Albert Multicultural Council, the Regina Open Door Society, and the Saskatoon Open Door Society. All of these organizations primarily provide settlement services. The Multicultural Council strives to create cultural awareness among different groups in Saskatchewan. The Regina Open Door Society aims to promote the adjustment and participation of immigrants in the Saskatchewan community, through such means as the extension of community services and the establishment of facilities for intercultural, educational, and social activities. The mandate of the Saskatoon Open Door Society is to welcome refugees and immigrants and help them become informed and effective participants in Canadian society. Its services are offered in five areas: Children's Programming, Employment Development, Language Training, Reception and Outreach, and Community Development.

LEGAL SERVICES

Available Legal Services
Public Legal Education and Information
Little public legal education is available on the immigration and refugee law process. A wide range of educational materials, workshops, and information sessions are offered on other legal issues of interest to refugees and immigrants.
Referrals
For legal matters, people are referred to legal aid or, in some instances, to private bar lawyers who do pro bono work. A variety of other referrals are given for other issues.
Advice
One organization will provide both general and specific legal advice to people on immigration and refugee law matters.
Representation
No formal legal representation services. Very limited lay representation.
Language Assistance
Interpretation and translation is available for legal proceedings.
Public legal education

There is a limited number of channels through which people can get legal information on immigration and refugee matters in Saskatchewan. The Prince Albert Multicultural Council noted that it does sometimes bring in lawyers and other representatives of the justice system to provide information to clients. The Saskatoon Open Door Society provides information on provincial laws and regulations pertaining to issues like credential recognition, discrimination, housing, and employment standards. In these areas, it will also provide assistance with filling out forms, and employs a notary public to certify documents. However, little assistance is provided in issues under federal jurisdiction, including information on immigration legislation. The Regina Open Door Society has a community participation component through which staff provide outreach and educational activities in the community. These initiatives may relate to a wide range of legal or other issues.

All organizations generally have a wide variety of written materials available on legal and other topics. These materials typically are produced by others, like the office of the Rentalsman or the Public Legal Education Agency. The Prince Albert Multicultural Council organizes workshops and gatherings on a range of topics of interest to the refugee and immigrant community, including creating cultural awareness and education about different cultures. The Saskatoon Open Door Society conducts workshops on issues like rental housing and renter's rights, and works with law students on a pro bono basis to generate research assistance.

Referrals

Referrals are a primary service provided by the three organizations interviewed in Saskatchewan: the Prince Albert Multicultural Council, the Saskatoon Open Door Society, and the Regina Open Door Society. Staff at these agencies refer clients to a wide variety of settlement, cultural, and community service organizations, as well as to private lawyers, members of the provincial and federal legislatures, and the police. Respondents from all of the organizations noted that they do refer people to legal aid even though there is no formal legal aid coverage for immigration and refugee issues in Saskatchewan. The Saskatoon Open Door Society noted that, in addition to cross-referrals, it often partners with other groups in specific projects to share information and advocate collectively.

Advice

Of the organizations interviewed, only the Prince Albert Multicultural Council offers its clients general advice and limited legal advice about the immigration and refugee law process. These services are offered by staff of the organization as well as by lawyers volunteering their time to work with clients. General advice tends to include the provision of information on the legal process and individuals' rights within it, as well as insight on how to conduct themselves in court, while the legal advice primarily involves assistance with the completion of forms. The areas in which advice is provided typically by staff of the Multicultural Council include Inland Claims, Convention Refugee Determination, Humanitarian and Compassionate applications, and Post-Refugee Determination in Canada Class applications. Some assistance may also be provided for Immigration Appeals Division cases. The quantity of legal advice provided by this organization is quite limited, and is far exceeded by advice that is more general in nature.

Representation

There are no community resources for formal legal representation in immigration and refugee law issues in Saskatchewan. While staff of the Prince Albert Multicultural Council will act as non-legal counsel, this is typically only in a peer support capacity where a staff member accompanies a person to a hearing without providing any representation. This is a very small component of the Multicultural Council's immigration and refugee law work. The legal issues in which staff may act as non-legal counsel are Inland Claims, Convention Refugee Determination, Humanitarian and Compassionate applications, and Post-Refugee Determination in Canada Class applications. Some assistance may also be provided in Immigration Appeals Division cases.

Language assistance

All of the organizations interviewed provide interpretation and translation services for preparatory work and legal proceedings. This service is either provided free to clients by organization staff or on a fee-for-service basis by outside translators and interpreters, depending on the situation and the language involved. The Saskatoon Open Door Society noted that in most circumstances, staff will put clients in contact with an interpreter/translator from the organization's list. Whether this person then chooses to provide assistance on a volunteer or fee basis is up to them. The Regina Open Door Society has two certified translators on staff who provide services free to organization clients, if the matter is within their areas of language expertise. In other situations, outside translators/interpreters may be retained on a cost basis. The respondents from Regina Open Door and the Prince Albert Multicultural Council noted that staff provide language assistance in court proceedings.

The following data was submitted for the legal services provided by one organization in Saskatchewan for the 2000-2001 fiscal year.

Estimated Number of Clients by Type of Service, 2000-2001
Type of Service Estimated Number of Clients
Educational or self-help materials 49
General Advice 216
Legal Advice 5
Representation as non-legal counsel 5
Representation as legal counsel 0
Translation or language assistance 48
Other types of assistance 184
All immigration/refugee services 497

Source: Immigration and Refugee Law Services Project data collection charts.

Estimated Number of Clients by Legal Issue, 2000-2001*
Immigration/Refugee Law Issue Estimated Number of Cases as a Percentage of All Clients
Inland Claims 0
Convention Refugee Determination 67
Immigration Appeals Division 4
Humanitarian and Compassionate 2
Post-Determination Refugee Claimants 6

* These figures include cases in which advice is provided as well as cases in which staff act as non-legal counsel.
Source: Data collection charts for Saskatchewan.

With respect to the characteristics of the clients served by this organization, the following estimates were provided.

Immigration and Refugee Law Client Characteristics
Client Characteristic Percentage of All Clients in 2000-2001
Female 0.5
Male 35.0
Family 64.5


Client Characteristic Percentage of All Clients in 2000-2001
Age 18 and under 56
Age 19-39 35
Age 40 and over 9

* The numbers in these tables are estimates.
Source: Data collection charts for Saskatchewan.

The key countries of origin identified for the refugees and immigrants seeking assistance in Saskatchewan are Bosnia, Burundi, Cameroon, Croatia, Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and the former Yugoslavia.

STAFFING AND FUNDING INFORMATION

Types of staff

The types of staff employed by organizations providing legal assistance to refugees and immigrants include general staff, support staff, interpreters/translators and, for one group, a notary public. One organization also relies on pro bono lawyers to provide some services, while this group and one other receive some direct and legal research assistance from law students.

Sources of funding

None of the organizations interviewed said it receives any funding that is specifically targeted to the delivery of legal services. However, the primary funding source for all of the organizations interviewed is Citizenship and Immigration Canada (Human Resources and Development Canada was a second federal funding source for one group, and Health Canada a second source for another). Respondents reported that federal funding is currently in decline as a result of government cutbacks, a trend that has led to greater instability despite the long-term status of the federal government as a funding source. It was also noted by one group that instability comes from the fact that funding decisions are reviewed on an annual basis, which makes long-term planning more difficult. This group would prefer a three-year funding term.

One organization reported receiving very little provincial funding, while the other two listed the province as a source of some financial support. One organization receives funding from the United Way, while a different group listed municipal government and private foundations as additional sources of income.

SETTLEMENT SERVICES

The following briefly outlines the range of settlement services available in Saskatchewan, the kinds of programs offered, the staff employed to administer these programs, and the types of funding received.

Types of settlement programs
  • Employment training and assistance (job searches, skills assessment, resume writing and interview skills, computer access, etc)
  • Language training, translation, and interpretation
  • Host program
  • Airport meeting service (for government-assisted arrivals)
  • Resource centre (publications and other materials)
  • Counselling, support, and orientation
  • Income tax assistance
  • Temporary accommodation (for government-assisted arrivals)
Types of staff

The types of staff that deliver settlement services in Saskatchewan include general settlement staff, teachers, counsellors, social workers, support staff, notary public, volunteers, and students.

Sources of funding

The majority of funding for all of the organizations interviewed in Saskatchewan comes from the federal government (Citizenship and Immigration, Human Resources and Development, and Health). The settlement organizations receive some money from the province, but another organization noted that there is very little provincial funding. Other sources of funding for settlement work include municipal government, the United Way, foundations and private donors.

All of the organizations felt that their funding is less secure now than in the past, due to recent cut backs from the federal government.

IMPRESSIONS ABOUT THE SERVICES AVAILABLE TO REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS

Two respondents in Saskatchewan felt that they did not have enough knowledge about available resources in the immigration and refugee law system to respond to questions about their impressions of how this system is working.

Problem areas
Insufficient legal services

Two of the organizations interviewed noted that there are few ways that refugees and immigrants can receive legal assistance in Saskatchewan. Both respondents highlighted the fact that legal aid does not cover immigration and refugee law matters. One of the same two respondents noted that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has provided assistance, in terms of legal services for refugees and immigrants, in the absence of other types of support. This person suggested that CIC staff are often better equipped to deal with the justice system than the settlement staff employed by community organizations, and that there is a close and positive working relationship between CIC and the agency this respondent represents.

Language barriers in the justice system

One respondent noted that the justice system is, in general, poorly equipped to deal with persons whose first language is not English, and recommended the development of a translation/interpretation service within the system. It is particularly pressing that adequate language assistance is available in the immigration and refugee context, given the serious implications of the wrong facts or information being presented.

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