“The Government of Canada has repeatedly said that these refugees were never denied natural justice. But this has clearly and unequivocally shown that they were denied justice from day one. That’s the reason why they never succeeded in subsequent (appeal) proceedings.”
Among other allegations agreed to by Hohots:
Much of the complainants’ initial work was done by an interpreter and former immigration consultant who worked for him.
Hohots did not spend sufficient time with any of the complainants or provide adequate legal advice.
Junior lawyers at his law firm were called upon at the last minute to represent the complainants at hearings, and discovered their written claims “were neither accurate nor complete.”
One of his lawyers described the firm as “extremely disorganized” and quit because of the “low level of service” provided to many of the refugee clients.
The unexpected development, however, came too late for the complainants, including Jozsef Pusuma, his wife, Timea Daroczi, and daughter Viktoria.
Pusuma, a onetime researcher for Viktoria Mohacsi, a prominent Roma and member of the European Parliament, arrived in Toronto with his wife, Timea Daroczi, and daughter, Viktoria, from Hungary in 2009. Their case was heard in 2010 and later denied by the Immigration and Refugee Board.
In his agreed statement, Hohots said neither he nor others from his firm had Mohacsi’s reference letter or a documentary film translated and filed with the refugee board as evidence to support the family’s claim.
He also agreed he had no notes of any substantive meetings with the family and dedicated the case to his assistant.
The Pusumas had sought sanctuary in a Toronto church after they were ordered deported and stayed there for three years, until December, when they gave up hope for a resolution to the complaint the family initiated in 2011.
Ottawa had refused to let the family stay on humanitarian grounds or grant them a pre-removal risk assessment, which could determine if their lives would be at risk if returned to Hungary. In December, they left the church and were deported to Budapest, where they are now in hiding.
“Seeking refuge in a church, or any other place of worship, to skirt Canada’s fair and generous immigration laws is simply inappropriate and unfair to claimants who follow the rules,” said Minister Alexander’s spokesperson, Kevin Menard.
“Claimants who abide by the law and comply with judicial rulings have more options available to them than those who hide in church basements. Canada has a long and proud tradition of providing protection to those who need it the most.”
Menard did not comment on the other cases.
According to the agreed statement, Hohots handled about 900 refugee clients between August 2009 and February 2012 — which translates to 4,000 to 5,000 individuals.
“At times, there were upwards of 40 refugee clients waiting in the Lawyer’s office,” it stated. “During this period the Lawyer felt overwhelmed.”
Mary Jo Leddy, of Toronto’s Romero House refugee shelter, said the resolution of the Roma complaints shows it is worth the time for victims to speak out against injustice.
“That said, the process was so long. This is a case where justice delayed is justice denied. It really worn down the Pusumas and other complainants,” said Leddy, who raised the Romas’ complaints to former immigration minister Jason Kenney on various occasions, with no success.
“What really troubled me and should trouble all of us is there may be a significant number of Roma Hungarian refugees who had their lives jeopardized and hope trashed, due to negligence and incompetency of their legal representatives.
“It’s all too little too late now, because many of them have already been deported, wandering around Europe trying to find a safe place.”