Get Legal Representation

Understand the importance of a legal representative and learn if and how you can get one. Know what they should help you with, and what your responsibilities are. Understand what to do if you believe you are being misrepresented.

Getting a Legal Representative

It is a very good idea to have a legal representative who can help you throughout the refugee claim process. Immigration and refugee law is very complex, and gathering appropriate evidence is difficult. A legal representative can help you to put forward the strongest case possible and guide you through the different steps of the process.

When should I get a legal representative?

Try to get a legal representative before starting your refugee claim. If you have already made your claim and do not have a legal representative, make every effort to contact one. We strongly advise that you have a legal representative at your hearing.

Who can represent me?

There are different kinds of legal representatives who can represent you for your refugee claim:

  • Lawyer
  • Immigration consultant
  • Notary public (only in Quebec)
  • Licensed paralegal (only in Ontario).
Law Societies

It is important to work with a legal representative that you trust so that you can ensure they are guiding you correctly and giving good advice. One way to do this is to check that they are a certified member of their professional organization. 

Here is the link to the law society in your province:

Law Society of Alberta 

Law Society British Columbia

Law Society of Manitoba

Law Society of New Brunswick

Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador

Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society

Law Society of Ontario

Law Society of Prince Edward Island

Barreau du Quebec

Law Society of Saskatchewan

Representative without a fee

Someone you trust who is not a legal representative may assist you with your refugee claim if they do not charge any fee. This person is known as a “representative without a fee”. This person is usually a family member or friend who you know and trust. Using a representative without a fee should be done only as a last resort as it is extremely important to be represented by a qualified legal representative in your refugee claim.

How do I get a legal representative?

  • Some lawyers are provided for free or at a low-cost through Legal Aid or non-profit legal clinics
  • Ask your settlement worker, or someone from a settlement agency that is supporting you, if they have a list of  legal representatives
  • If you are looking for a legal representative, read reviews about them.  You can also speak to a few different legal representatives to find out more about how they work so you can assess your level of comfort with them.

Working with Your Legal Representative

Choosing a legal representative is very important. This section outlines what you can expect your legal representative to do and what they should not do, what your role is, and what to do if you believe you are being misrepresented.

Your legal representative’s role

You should expect your legal representative to do the following:

  • Set a date to meet with you and discuss your case. In general, in this discussion your legal representative should:
    • Tell you about their legal experience
    • Ask you about your case and listen to your story
    • Explain to you how the law impacts your situation
    • Tell you about your options
    • Give an estimate how long they think your case will take
    • Explain what the next steps are
  • Outline expectations for communication, and try to meet communication timelines has indicated (i.e. respond to emails or call within a certain amount of time)
  • Keep you informed at each stage of your case and discuss all important decisions with you
  • Instruct you on the types of evidence you should gather for your case
  • Contact any witnesses that will participate in your hearing and help them prepare for your hearing
  • Review and organize your evidence, and then submit it to the IRB-RPD
  • Meet with you before your hearing to discuss what will happen at the hearing 
  • Help you prepare for your hearing
  • Demonstrate that they are ready and prepared for your hearing
  • Ensure you get an interpreter if you need one for a meeting or your hearing
  • Let you know if they forgot to do something important or made a mistake.

Your role as the client

It is important to remember that although you may have legal representation, this is still your claim for refugee protection. You should:

  • Be aware of how much time is contractually allocated to your case. The time includes all communication with your legal representative, including emails, phone calls, and meetings. It is advised to be prepared before contacting them in order to prioritize what your legal representative’s time is best used for
  • Be honest with your legal representative. They will be informing you what to do based on the information that you provide them
  • Take notes of your discussions at meetings and on phone calls. Write down any tasks you agree to do and when you expect to finish them. If you are not able to take notes or write down tasks during your meetings, then ask your representative for a copy of their notes and to provide you with a list of tasks
  • Follow advice or directions provided by your legal representative. Do what you can to be prepared and ask for help when you need it
  • Give them any evidence and documents about your case they ask for and any new information you have.  Do not submit evidence to the IRB-RPD without discussing it first with your legal representative
  • Stay up-to-date about events happening the country that you seeking protection from and share this with your legal representative
  • Communicate with your legal representative about timelines and any upcoming deadlines
  • Make sure your legal representative has up-to-date contact information for you and let them know where they can leave messages
  • Discuss any disagreement you may have with them.

Your legal representative should not

  • Fail to communicate with you or keep you up-to-date on your case
  • Submit any application for you without identifying him or herself as your legal representative
  • Tell you to lie or leave out information on your application
  • Suggest that you use false documents or evidence
  • Ask you to sign a blank or incomplete form that you’re required to submit
  • Refuse to explain what they are doing, answer your questions, or provide you with copies of your documents and forms
  • Refuse to follow what you want to do in your case without good reason or cause
  • Conduct themselves in a manner that is unprofessional 
  • Guarantee you will be successful in your refugee claim. No one can guarantee an outcome for your case. Be careful also if they say that they have special contacts within IRCC, IRB-RPD, or a Canadian embassy.

What to do if you think your legal representative is misrepresenting you

If you think that your legal representative is misrepresenting you or has not fulfilled their responsibilities, communicate directly with them to try to solve the problem, if you feel comfortable. If this does not resolve the issues you are experiencing, you can do the following:

  • Contact your local legal aid office, if you have been assigned a legal aid lawyer. In limited circumstances, you may be able to change your legal aid lawyer. You must provide good reasons that are based on reasonable and fair expectations. The local legal aid office will let you know if you are approved. If you are approved, you must communicate this to your lawyer in writing and your lawyer will transfer your file to the new lawyer
  • Ask a more senior person or supervisor to assist you to resolve the issue, if your legal representative works in a private company
  • Contact the organization that governs your representative’s profession to find out what your options are.

Representing yourself

If you cannot find a legal representative or representative without a fee to help you, you must complete and submit your own BOC Form and represent yourself at your hearing.

If you do not have legal help: 

  • Review the Claimant’s Guide
  • Review Legal and Policy resources
  • Review the National Documentation Package for your country
  • Attend a Ready Tour
  • Revisit this My Refugee Claim website regularly
  • Read carefully all correspondence sent to you by CBSA and IRB-RPD and follow the instructions provided
  • Be very familiar with your BOC, any narrative you have submitted, and your evidence. Make sure everything contained in these documents is true and correct
  • Get help where you can from family, friends or other trusted members in the community. For example, people who might be good at reading and writing, who would be willing to spend time reviewing materials with you.

Working with Your Interpreter

You may work with a number of different interpreters (if you require one) during the refugee claim process, at:

  • Interviews with IRCC or CBSA
  • Your IRB-RPD hearing 
  • Your legal representative’s office.

You will be provided a professional interpreter in your language of choice at your eligibility interview with IRCC or CBSA and at your refugee hearing at the IRB-RPD. You may not select the interpreter. There will be no cost to you for this interpreter. 

If you were assigned a legal aid lawyer, the cost of some interpretation may be provided by legal aid. When you hire a legal representative you will likely need to pay for interpretation services. In other situations, such as in free legal clinics, you may be assisted with interpretation by a friend, volunteer or staff member of the law office or clinic.

What your interpreter should and should not do

The interpreter plays a vital role by providing clear communication between you, your lawyer and the other participants in your eligibility interview or refugee hearing.

Your interpreter should fulfill the following responsibilities:

  • Accuracy: The interpreter is meant to translate word-for-word, or to communicate your words as closely as possible. They should not add anything more or leave anything out 
  • Impartiality: The interpreter should remain objective and impartial. This means the interpreter should not be involved in your case or indicate if they agree or disagree with what is being said
  • Confidentiality: The interpreter should never discuss anything that was communicated outside of your interview or hearing.

Your Interpreter should not: 

  • Give you legal advice or provide any explanations to the legal proceedings or implications related to your case
  • Add their own interpretation to your words or summarize, paraphrase, condense or exaggerate what you say.

If you think the interpreter made a mistake or you do not understand something that has been said at your hearing or interview, tell your legal representative, the Member or the Officer.