Criminal Law

Have you been charged with a crime? Have you been denied legal aid? We may be able to help. Visit our criminal law page to read more able the kinds of cases we can take on.

Family Law

Do you need advice about custody and access? Questions about child support? DLS may be able to assist. To find out more about these services, visit our family law page.

Refugee and Immigration Law

Have you made a refugee claim? Do you need help filing a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment or Humanitarian & Compassionate Grounds application? We may be able to help.

Housing Law

Are you a tenant in rental housing? Is your landlord trying to evict you? Does your apartment need repair? Do you have an appeal pending before the Social Benefits Tribunal? We may be able to help.

University Affairs

Are you a student at the University of Toronto? Have you been charged with an academic offence? Do you need advice about an academic appeal? Read more about our services for students to see if we can assist.

Employment Law

Lost your job?  Treated unfairly at work?  Problems with your employer?  We may be able to assist you.

Legal Education Workshops

We provide plain language workshops on a variety of legal topics. To request a workshop or learn more about our PLE program, contact us.


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ACCESS DENIED: Calling for the Revocation of Canada’s Refugee Status Document Requirement for Private Sponsorship

In 2012, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) amended the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). Under Section 135 of the IRPR, refugee status is a requirement of sponsorship under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSRP). Refugee status must be obtained from either the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or from the government of an applicant’s current residence.

Section 135 has created significant barriers to refugee sponsorship, especially during the Afghan refugee crisis. Since many Afghan refugees face difficulties obtaining refugee status, s.35 has severely protracted the urgent relocation of Afghan refugees. Indeed, despite committing to accept 40,000 Afghan refugees, Canada has only accepted 4,000. This is all despite the fact that many Afghan refugees meet the UN Refugee Convention definition of refugees, having faced over 40 years of conflicts, poverty, and diseases that were exasperated by the U.S. invasion and the recent takeover by the Taliban.

In response to this situation, DLS has published a paper titled “Access Denied: Calling for Revocation of Canada’s Refugee Status Document Requirement for Private Sponsorship”. The paper analyzes the sponsorship requirement and identifies the difficulties it causes for refugees applying under the PSRP, with specific focus on the barriers s. 135 has created to Afghan resettlement in Canada. It argues that the status requirement impedes Canada’s proper response to the Afghan crisis and recommends that the status requirement be lifted.

To promote the paper and raise awareness of the issues surrounding s. 135 of the IRPR, DLS held a virtual conference titled “Access Denied: Ongoing Barriers to Refugee Sponsorship in Canada”. The conference had speakers such as Tamana Hafid, a member of the Canadian Afghan Lawyers Association, and Mellissa Fung, a Canadian journalist, filmmaker, and storyteller discussing the issues the status requirement causes for Afghan refugees and their experience in helping them overcome the requirement. The conference had over 200 participants.

Chasing New Fees: Is FDM Charging You a Fee for Training?

In March 2021, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (the Board) ruled that FDM Group, could not charge their former employees a $30,000 fee arising from job-training costs for ending their contract during the two-year commitment period. The Board found that the $30,000 charge constituted a fee within the meaning of the Employment Standards Act, which prohibits temporary help agencies from charging workers a fee in connection with them becoming an employee of the agency and in connection with them being assigned work through the agency. The Board held that charge was illegal and ordered FDM to remove provisions enforcing the fee from its agreements.  

The four former FDM employees represented by Parkdale Community legal Services (PCLS) and Downtown Legal Services (DLS) were happy with this victory, not only for themselves, but for other workers at FDM and temporary help agencies. 

If only that was the end of the story. 

PCLS and DLS have heard from recent employees of FDM that their current contracts, contain a similar prohibited fee, in direct contradiction of the Board’s order.  

This cannot continue.  

If you are/were an employee of FDM (or another temporary help agency) whose contract contains a prohibited fee for training, PCLS and DLS want to hear from you. See PCLS and DLS contact information below: 

Jennifer Fehr 
Supervising Lawyer, Employment Law Division 
Downtown Legal Services, (416)934-4535  

John No 
Staff Lawyer, Workers’ Rights Division 
Parkdale Community Legal Services, (416) 531-2411, ext. 227 

Media Release: Temporary Agency’s $30,000 Charge Against Workers Who End Their Employment Deemed Illegal by Ontario Labour Relations Boar

The decision involved four former temporary workers from FDM Group, a multi-national temporary work agency, who left their assignments arranged through FDM before the conclusion of a two-year commitment period.

Under FDM’s employment agreement, workers who end their employment contract before completing their commitment period are liable for $30,000 in damages arising from job-training costs incurred by FDM.

Under the Employment Standards Act, temporary work agencies are prohibited from charging workers a fee in connection with them becoming an employee of the agency and in connection with them being assigned work through the agency.

“In addition to being an unconscionable provision in an employment agreement, FDM’s enforcement of the $30,000 charge is in clear violation of the Employment Standards Act,” said John No, staff lawyer with Parkdale Community Legal Services, which represented three of the workers. “If temporary work agencies want to find ways to retain employees, they should be doing so by maintaining proper working conditions and not by bonding them with a threat of a penalty.”

The Board agreed with the workers and found that FDM’s $30,000 charge constituted a fee within the meaning of the Employment Standards Act and the manner in which FDM sought to enforce the charge was clearly prohibited by the Act. As a result, the Board held that charge was illegal and ordered FDM to remove provisions enforcing the fee from its employment agreements.

The decision is a monumental win not only for FDM employees, but also for temporary agency workers across the province, many of whom are low-wage workers, recent university graduates, and newcomers to Canada. Downtown Legal Services, who represented one of the workers in the FDM case, called the Board’s decision “a step in the right direction,” particularly for vulnerable groups who seek employment through agencies like FDM.

No commended the four workers for their willingness to participate in the case and fight FDM’s fee. “Had we lost, it would have been easier for FDM to enforce the fee against them,” he stated. “Instead, they decided to take the risk and fight to protect the rights of temporary workers.”

Eduardo Guzman-Diaz, one of the workers involved in the case, was extremely pleased with the outcome. “I’m very excited and relieved to have received the Board’s decision,” Guzman-Diaz said. “This decision not only impacts myself and the three others involved in the case, but also all FDM workers. So many people have reached out to me saying that they have been afraid to end their contracts with FDM. I hope this decision also brings them some relief.”

Unfortunately, FDM’s public statements after the decision gives doubt as to whether FDM will fully abandon its attempts to seek money from its employees. PCLS and DLS call on the Ministry of Labour to ensure that FDM has removed any iterations of the illegal damages clause from its employment agreements and that it will comply with the Board’s decision on a going forward basis.

The full decision can be found online here.

For more information contact:

John No
Staff Lawyer, Workers’ Rights Division
Parkdale Community Legal Services, (416) 531-2411, ext. 227

Jennifer Fehr
Supervising Lawyer, Employment Law Division
Downtown Legal Services, (416)934-4535

We are grateful for the funding provided by Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Faculty of Law and students at the University of Toronto.