Ontario attorney general invokes PM in spat over refugee legal aid

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OTTAWA — Ontario’s attorney general is taking his fight for more money for refugee legal aid to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Doug Downey, who took over as Ontario’s attorney general in June, says he has received no response to his requests to federal Justice Minister David Lametti and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, calling on Ottawa to “properly fund” immigration and refugee legal-aid services in his province.

Downey has now written to Trudeau, asking him to instruct his ministers to reply to Ontario’s requests to fill what he says is a funding gap of $25 million.

He says the number of refugee claims in Ontario has soared by nearly 160 per cent since 2013 — a phenomenon he blames on the Trudeau’s government’s immigration policies.

In the spring, the provincial Progressive Conservative government announced it was cutting funding for refugee- and immigration-law services provided by Legal Aid Ontario — a move that refugee lawyers and advocates have said will hurt vulnerable migrants.

Downey argues immigration is a federal responsibility and says Ottawa should shoulder these costs, while Lametti says provinces are responsible for their own legal-aid programs.

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