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Humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications and refugee claims: how are they different?

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Getting legal help

A woman should get legal advice before she makes a refugee claim or an H&C application. An experienced immigration lawyer will help her understand her options.

There may also be legal issues affecting her situation that she is not aware of. For example, she may be from a country that Canada is not sending people back to because of the human rights situation there.

She may need to speak to a family lawyer, especially if she has children. In some situations, if there is a court order under family law that deals with the children, her removal from Canada might go against the order.

A woman should also know that if she does not have immigration status in Canada and she contacts the police, they may decide to contact immigration authorities. The police database will show if there is an immigration warrant in her name.

For legal advice, a woman can contact a legal clinic or a lawyer. Community legal clinics give free legal advice to people with low incomes, but not all clinics deal with immigration issues. Student legal clinics in law schools in Toronto, Kingston, London, Ottawa, and Windsor also represent and assist people.

To find a legal clinic, visit the Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) website at or call Legal Aid Ontario at:

Toll-free: 1-800-668-8258
Toronto area: 416-979-1446
Bell Relay Service: 1-800-855-0511

Legal Aid Ontario also offers a searchable directory of lawyers. A woman can search for a lawyer by area of law, location, and language at:

Legal aid certificates

A legal aid certificate can pay for a lawyer's services. LAO will decide if a woman qualifies based on her income and legal issue.

Victims of family violence may be able to get a legal aid certificate on an emergency basis. It may be possible to apply and get the certificate on the same day.

Victims of family violence can also ask a women's shelter or community legal clinic to make a referral under LAO's Family Violence Authorization Program. Under this Program, victims of family violence may qualify for a free 2 hour session with a lawyer. A woman who needs advice from a family lawyer and an immigration lawyer can ask for both. If she needs a lawyer to represent her in legal proceedings, she will need to apply for a legal aid certificate.

Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

This organization provides free legal representation in family and immigration law, as well as counselling and language interpreter services for women who experience physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. They may also give summary advice and advocate for women in criminal law cases. They accept collect calls.

Toronto area: 416-323-9149
Toronto area TTY: 416-323-1361

Law Society Referral Service

The Law Society Referral Service is an online service that gives callers the name of a lawyer in their area who can give them a free consultation for up to 30 minutes. They can ask for a lawyer who speaks their language, or a lawyer who accepts Legal Aid certificates. A woman can also call the Referral Service on a crisis line if she is unable to use the online service, for example if she is in custody, in a shelter, or in a remote community without access to the internet. This line is available from Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Crisis Line —

Toll-free: 1-855-947-5255
Toronto area: 416-947-5255