An Analysis of Immigration and Refugee Law Services in Canada
Part One: Immigration and refugee law legal aid (continued)
STRUCTURE OF LEGAL AID
Delivery of services
Legal aid in New Brunswick is administered by the Legal Aid Committee (LAC), which is composed of members of the Law Society of New Brunswick. Administrative offices in each of the eight regions of the province are responsible for preparing lists of lawyers to serve on legal aid panels and for appointing duty counsel. Private bar lawyers provide all legal aid representation.
The Law Society of New Brunswick is responsible for appointing Area committees of at least six persons: three from the Society and three from the community. These committees act as appeal committees in cases where legal aid certificates have been refused, as well as determining whether certificates will be issued for cases involving Appeal Courts. If a certificate is denied for an appeal court case, the applicant may make a final appeal to the provincial Director of legal aid.
Eligibility for legal aid
Legal aid applicants are subject to a financial means test that considers all financial circumstances. The criteria for the means test are flexible, but may include assets, income, and the expenses of the applicant, spouse, and any dependent children.
COVERAGE OF IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE LAW ISSUES
New Brunswick does not provide any formal legal aid coverage for immigration and refugee law issues. In addition, a legal aid representative noted that there is no coverage available on an ad hoc or discretionary basis through the legal aid system.
An LAC respondent noted that there is very little demand for services in the area of immigration and refugee law in New Brunswick. -Legal Aid New Brunswick rarely receives requests for such services and does not receive complaints about the lack of available assistance. This very limited demand is likely because New Brunswick is not a permanent destination for refugees and immigrants, but rather a "stopping spot" on the way to Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver.
This LAC respondent was not familiar with other organizations in the province that provide services to refugees and immigrants, although it was speculated that this is an area in which some of the churches may be involved. This representative also noted that groups that provide these kinds of services may do so on only a short-term or ad hoc basis - for example, in response to a temporary situation or need in a particular community - rather than through a consistent, more formal service delivery model. Since, at the time of the interview, legal aid did not have connections to any community organizations that assist refugees and immigrants, it also lacked any capacity to refer people to such agencies (although the very small number of inquiries received makes this almost a moot point).
At the time of the interview, the respondent was unsure if the provision of legal assistance to refugees and immigrants is a task that could be undertaken by community groups. If there is little demand for these services, however, it was noted that questions about who could best deliver them are not particularly pressing. Accordingly, no suggestions were forthcoming about the strengths or weaknesses of the current "system" for delivering services to refugees and immigrants in New Brunswick. Not only is there is no "system" in place at present but, according to the respondent, there is little need for the development of one.
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