Troubling Signs: Mapping Access to Justice in Canada’s Refugee System Reform

Volume 47, No 1
Emily Bates, Jennifer Bond, and David Wiseman

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In 2012, Canada’s refugee system underwent a significant transformation. Throughout the period of reform, refugee advocates, researchers and support workers expressed concern that the changes would individually and cumulatively exacerbate existing access to justice deficits for refugee claimants. Drawing on experience from the authors’ involvement with the University of Ottawa Refugee Assistance Project, as well as dedicated supplementary research, this paper begins by outlining a social context conception of access to justice and then explores how access to justice issues were considered as part of the refugee system reform process, including what deficits experts foresaw arising as a result of that reform. The paper
then details institutional responses to the new system, before providing insights on the access to justice deficits experts indicated refugees were actually experiencing two years after imple- mentation of key reforms. This analysis draws on a variety of primary and secondary sources, including an actual claimant file which is used to both ex- plore key access to justice concerns and illustrate the vital importance of more in-depth study in this area. 


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