Providing access to free legal services for Ukrainian nationals

News release

Providing access to free legal services for Ukrainian nationals

February 20, 2024 – Toronto, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada

Access to justice is a fundamental value of the Canadian justice system and an integral part of a fair society that respects the rule of law. Committed to upholding the values of peace, democracy and human rights, the Government of Canada supports collaborative approaches to achieve fair and equal access to justice and legal services.

Today, the Honourable Arif Virani Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and Yvan Baker, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre, accompanied by Kirsti Mathers McHenry, Executive Director of Pro Bono Ontario, announced funding of $475,788 for Pro Bono Ontario’s Ukrainian Refugee Legal Relief Initiative.

The Ukrainian Refugee Legal Relief Initiative assists Ukrainian nationals seeking refuge in Canada as a result of Russia’s armed invasion of Ukraine. This project provides access to legal information and advice, including a toll-free hotline that is accessible nationally and abroad. Through this service, Ukrainian nationals can speak to a Canadian lawyer on immigration-related issues such as sponsorship, refugee claims and work permits or be referred to provincial pro bono organizations or community groups across Canada.

This funding additionally supports the development of culturally sensitive resources and training for staff and lawyers. Collectively, these efforts will provide timely access to trauma-informed and culturally appropriate legal services to further support the well-being of Ukrainians and the Ukrainian community.

The Justice Partnership and Innovation Program is providing the funding over three years (2022-2025). This program funds projects that support a fair, relevant and accessible Canadian justice system in areas such as access to justice, addressing family violence, and emerging justice issues.

Pro Bono Ontario is a non-profit organization committed to providing barrier-free legal services for Ontarians who do not qualify for legal aid. Since its formation in 2001, the organization’s volunteer lawyers have worked with more than 180,000 low-income Ontarians to lead secure, healthy and productive lives.


“Our government is grateful to be able to count on organizations, such as Pro Bono Ontario, that improve access to justice – a fundamental Canadian value and an integral part of a fair and effective justice system. This investment shows how our government continues to stand with Ukraine, and that we will continue to support Ukrainians forced to flee their homes because of Russia’s illegal invasion.”

The Honourable Arif Virani, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“This funding will assist Ukrainian nationals seeking refuge in Canada by providing access to free legal services and advice when they need these the most. Our government will continue working with our partners to stand united in support of democracy, freedom and justice.”

Yvan Baker, M.P.
Member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre

"Pro Bono Ontario is proud to be able to provide frontline legal services to Ukrainians who are in Canada as the result of the Russian invasion. Thanks to Department of Justice support, we have been able to leverage our innovative hotline model and partnerships with legal groups and community service agencies to ensure that Ukrainians’ legal needs – whether they relate to immigration, housing, or employment – are being met quickly. Although our national hotline only launched in June 2022, we have already helped more than 1,300 people whose lives were suddenly upended.”

Kirsti Mathers McHenry
Executive Director, Pro Bono Ontario

Quick facts

  • In Canada, the responsibility for the administration of justice is shared among federal, provincial and territorial governments and the judiciary.

  • The Justice Partnership and Innovation Program supports projects that promote a fair, relevant and accessible Canadian justice system. This program supports activities that address issues around access to justice, family violence, and other emerging justice issues.

  • Canada is home to 1.3 million people of Ukrainian descent, which is the largest Ukrainian diaspora in the Western world. (Prime Minister Statement, August 24, 2023)

  • The Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) is one of the many special measures the Government of Canada has introduced to support the people of Ukraine. It offers Ukrainians and their family members free, extended temporary status and allows them to work, study and stay in Canada until it is safe for them to return home.

  • Canada welcomed 221,231 Ukrainians into the country under the CUAET program between March 17, 2022, and January 27, 2024, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The program also received 1,189,320 applications during this period, of which 958,190 were approved.

  • Justice Canada is guided in its efforts to promote access to justice by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose overarching principle is to “leave no one behind.”

  • Sustainable Development Goal 16, or SDG 16, commits the global community to work together to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.” (Canada’s System of Justice - Access to Justice)

Associated links


For more information, media may contact:

Chantalle Aubertin
Deputy Director, Communications
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

Olha Senyshyn
Ukrainian Legal Relief Staff Lawyer
Pro Bono Ontario

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