Ontario lawyer disbarred for ripping off Roma refugees

Roma refugee claimants have more than enough problems, often fleeing persecution.
Roma refugee claimants have more than enough problems, often fleeing persecution. REUTERS/Elias von Hildebrand

There is always one black sheep amongst the herd.

Mississauga, Ont. lawyer Elizabeth Jaszi had her license rescinded by the Law Society of Upper Canada for failing her Hungarian Roma clients in making their refugee claims.

She was also found to have charged legal aid for services she did not provide, and has been ordered to pay $50,000 in costs.

Jaszi committed a number of wrongs against her clients, amongst them failing to attend Immigration and Refugee hearings and leaving her clients unrepresented.

However, the most egregious wrong was failing to prepare full and accurate Personal Information Forms or PIF’s.

Jaszi told her clients to sign blank PIF forms, that she would fill out later, which is a failure of process. Refugee lawyers fill out the PIF with assistance from their clients and go over the information before the clients sign. This is done to ensure accuracy, which is something Jaszi’s PIF’s lacked for obvious reasons.

According to the Disciplinary Panel of the Law Society of Upper Canada this was a big problem, because: “[PIF’s] are the most important documents in the refugee application process and failure to complete them properly can significantly impact the outcome of the application for refugee status.”

A PIF is a chance to tell the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) your story; why you had to flee your country and why you are asking Canada for protection. This document forms the basis of your claim. In fact, the PIF has been renamed, and now goes by the name of Basis of Claim Form.

Jaszi also failed to get the PIF’s translated. Making things worse is that many Hungarian Roma claimants have little to no English and French language skills, making translation an essential part of the process.

How can a refugee claimant possible tell their story of persecution to an IRB member, if the member can’t understand them?

Four of Jaszi’s clients had their refugee claims declared abandoned because they couldn’t supply the IRB with the PIF on time, as they weren’t translated.

Roma refugee claimants have more than enough problems. Not only are they fleeing persecution in their home country, but even when they’re in the process of making a refugee claim, it seems they can’t catch a break.

Researchers from Western University and Osgoode Hall Law School who conducted a study into Roma Hungarian refugee claimants, have found that the Roma are greatly disadvantaged as refugee claimants in Canada.

In fact, their study found that there is an “institutional bias” against Roma refugee claimants in Canada. The study found that racist stereotypes against the Roma have become “enshrined” in the refugee determination process.

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