The Law Foundation of Ontario has made a grant of nearly $90,000 to support free legal help that will assist the arrival of Syrian refugees in the Toronto area. The grant furthers the partnership of Lifeline Syria and the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program, a pro bono lawyer co‐ordination effort led by the University of Ottawa’s Refugee Law Hub.
Together, the organizations provide private sponsors with free legal services to help them navigate the refugee sponsorship process in the Toronto area. Nationally, more than 1,000 lawyers and supervised law students in five Canadian cities have volunteered with the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program to provide these services and the efforts are expanding rapidly.
“This Law Foundation funding is coming at a critical time and will help us mobilize volunteers and support those who have taken on the responsibility of sponsorship,” says Ratna Omidvar, Chair of Lifeline Syria and Executive Director of the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson University. “Delays in processing these applications mean refugees continue to live in deplorable and unsafe conditions.”
The Law Foundation of Ontario is making the grant through its Access to Justice Fund which currently has enhancing access to justice for refugee populations as one of its five priority areas.
“The Law Foundation of Ontario identified the legal needs of refugees as a priority for the 2016 Access to Justice Fund granting,” says Foundation Chair, Paul Schabas. “The arrival of Syrian refugees highlighted these needs, and we’re pleased to be able to respond so quickly to support access to legal services to assist the sponsorship of our newest Canadian residents. This grant will bolster the good work these organizations are doing and give sponsors access to the legal experts they need to get Syrian refugees here as soon as possible.”