A group of Halifax lawyers is volunteering their time to help any group wanting to sponsor a refugee family work their way through government red tape.
Over the past year, over 10,000 newcomers have settled in the Maritimes. The influx has led to population growth for all three provinces.
Lawyer Emilie Coyle has been sponsoring refugees since 2010. She has been combining her desire to help refugees and her law degree to ensure more newcomers are able to come to Canada, as the process isn’t easy.
“It's a lot of paperwork. It's a lot of detail,” says Coyle. “If you get one thing wrong, your application can be sent back to you. And it's ever-changing. New requirements keep popping up.”
Coyle is now trying to teach Canadian lawyers how to navigate the massive amount of paperwork and red tape that comes with sponsoring a refugee. Then the lawyers can, in turn, volunteer their time and help private groups with the process.
Immigration lawyer Grace Allen says she wants to work with the people on the front lines.
“I went into law school because I wanted to help people,” she says. “I'm excited to work more with communities who are coming together to sponsor refugees privately. I think that's a really, maybe a uniquely Canadian aspect of refugee and immigration law here.”
The training program began in 2015 with the wave of Syrian refugees coming to Canada, but the demand for refugee sponsorship has continued. Sometimes, that’s from the refugees themselves.
“We have something called the echo effect. When people arrive in Canada and they've been sponsored, they themselves would like to sponsor their family members. It's very difficult to settle in a new country when you're worried about your family overseas,” says Coyle.
To date, 1,300 lawyers have been trained, and over 20,000 hours donated to refugee cases across Canada.
And with this, more Halifax lawyers will be joining that team.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.