Shelley Levine – Immigration and Refugee Lawyer

Introduction of New Law

Legacy Claims – The forgotten Refugees – UPDATE

It has now been about 18 months since the Liberals came to power with the promise of unwinding some of the more Draconian Immigration amendments which were introduced by the former Harper government. In July 2016, I published an article on the status of “legacy” claims which voiced frustration with the fact that refugee claims made in 2012 had yet to receive a hearing. I continue to receive phone calls on a regular basis from claimants seeking an update about such claims. Accordingly, I have written this update to let people know what has happened in the 9 months since I last wrote about this issue.

Introduction of New Law

In December 2012 Immigration completely revamped the refugee system. Perhaps the most dramatic change requires that most new refugee claims be completed within 60 days of the date when they were initiated. This timeline compares with the 1 to 3 year wait times claimants faced prior to the introduction of the new system.

Legacy Cases

When the Immigration and Refugee Board began to hear cases under the new system, claims made before December 2012 were classified as “legacy” cases and were to be heard using the old timelines. In other words, the statutory requirement that cases be heard within 60 days did not apply to these legacy cases. The law was not “grandfathered” simply because at the time, there was a significant backlog of refugee claims numbering in the tens of thousands. Immigration did not have the capacity to hear so many claims in such a short period of time.

2012 Legacy Cases

Initially, the Board made some strides toward eliminating the backlog of “legacy” cases such that it is likely most claims initiated prior to 2012 have now been heard by the Board. However, for the most part, cases initiated in 2012 have yet to receive a hearing, which means that many of these cases how now been languishing for more than 5 years!

New Backlogs

One of the reasons for revamping the refugee system was to prevent backlogs from building up as had been the case under the previous system. Yet, despite the fact that the Board now receives many fewer claims today than in did in 2012, the following four new backlogs have developed:

1) Claimants who have succeeded at the Federal Court with a Judicial Review are not being scheduled,
2) Claimants who have succeeded at the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) where the RAD has returned the case to     the RPD for re-hearing, are not being scheduled,
3) Claimants who have had their initial claims delayed because of security clearance are not being re-scheduled,
4) Claimants who have had their initial claims delayed due to illness of a Board Member or claimant, or absence of an interpreter are not being re-scheduled,

Forgotten Refugees

While it is true, that the hardship facing legacy claimants has been mitigated to some degree by living in a safe country, many thousands of these claimants have now been separated from family members for more than five years, many of whom face persecution in their home countries.

There is simply no excuse for Immigration’s failure to process the remaining legacy claims and allowing new backlogs to form. If the system lacks capacity, then additional Board members should be hired. If Immigration has a plan to deal with such refugees, then transparency requires that they share the plan, to give legacy claimants clarity in their lives. The system has dealt these refugees an unfair hand with no end in sight.


As noted above legacy claimants are now trapped in a line that is more than five years old and now face the additional hurdle of being relegated to a backlog which stands behind 4 new backlogs. Immigration has demonstrated that it cannot properly manage these claims. The only reasonable resolution at this time is to proclaim an amnesty for all legacy claimants.

If you have any questions about Immigration or Refugee law please contact Shelley Levine at 416.364.2345