For immediate release
June 26, 2017
Canada’s Federal Government Fails to Provide Constitutional Right to Legal Aid and Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Lives Hang in the Balance
Vancouver, B.C. Coast Salish Territory – On June 26, 2017 Legal Services Society (LSS) announced that effective August 1, 2017 they will no longer accept applications for immigration and refugee cases due to a lack of funding.
According to their background and information sheet, LSS has experienced a 145% increase in refugee claims in the last three years without an increase in funding from the Canadian federal government. Under the Canadian constitution, the federal government is responsible for immigration and refugee laws including the immigration tribunals and their processes. By not providing the necessary funding, the Canadian federal government is in conflict with the constitution and the Supreme Court has ruling that legal representation is required when the right to life, liberty and security of the person is at stake.
At Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), over 40% of women who access services are immigrant women, 2% are in Canada as refugees and every woman requires some type of legal information or support.
“Immigrant and refugee women in abusive relationships are navigating the intersection of immigration, family and criminal law systems,” said Rosa Elena Arteaga, BWSS Manager of Direct Services and Clinical Practice. “While the federal government is not fulfilling its responsibility to provide legal aid for immigration and refugee law matters, this has prompted the province of British Columbia to announce they’re stopping service and now immigrant and refugee women’s lives hang in the balance.”
Without legal aid, immigrant and refugee women fleeing abusive partners will not have legal representation in their legal proceedings while in their pursuit of legal immigration status in Canada and without immigration status; they will be unable to access crisis support such as shelters or transition houses. Without access to these supports, women and their children will have few options other than staying with a violent partner. Further, without status and without legal representation women who have come to Canada fleeing gender persecution are at risk for deportation.
“It takes a lot for an immigrant or refugee woman to leave an abusive relationship and for women to flee gender persecution,” said Angela Marie MacDougall BWSS Executive Director. “This move in British Columbia has ensured the further entrapment of immigrant and refugee women and their children in violent situations including deportation to dangerous circumstances.”
Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, Battered Women’s Support Services
Tel. (604) 808 0507 E-mail: [email protected]