CARL pleased to honour Carole Dahan with 2014 CARLA Award

October 21, 2014

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) is pleased to announce that Carole Simone Dahan, Senior Counsel for the Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario, is the winner of the CARLA award for 2014. The award was presented at CARL’s Annual General Meeting on October 16, 2014.

A few years ago, the CARL executive decided to institute the CARLA awards to recognize people or groups who have made an exceptional contribution to the protection of refugees. This award honours the qualities that we see in so many good refugee advocates – people or groups who make that extra effort on behalf of their clients, and who are determined to fight for justice regardless of the odds or the institutionalized opposition. We all know that refugee advocacy is an uphill battle and that to be successful, good advocates have to be smart, dedicated, self-sacrificing and passionate about their clients and social justice.

In previous years, we have granted CARLA awards to the volunteer law students who worked so hard on research for the IFHP brief; to Gina Csany-Robah, Director of the Roma Community Centre, a teacher who fought so hard to explain Roma claimants to the media, to parliamentarians, and the Canadian public; and to the Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, who fought so tenaciously for their patients, and proved to be powerful and articulate advocates for refugees across the country.

This year, the CARL executive has decided to honour one person who embodies all of these qualities: Carole Dahan.

For the past ten years, Carole served as the Director of the Refugee Law Office (RLO) for Legal Aid Ontario. She has since moved on to become Senior Counsel at the RLO. In her own refugee practice, Carole he has been everything any lawyer would hope to be: smart, relentless, tenacious, tremendously hard working, fearless, and articulate in the face of judges who do not always understand the vulnerability of refugees. She is skilful, without backing down an inch.

However there are additional dimensions to Carole’s work. The RLO has often been the counsel of last resort for claimants who were on the precipice of deportation. RLO lawyers regularly visit detention centres where they too often find claimants who are victims of injustice like bad advice from friends and smugglers, poor legal representation, biased Board members, or an ill considered denial at the leave stage in Federal Court. Many refugee counsel are familiar with last-minute deportation cases: an urgent motion to stay the removal to buy a little time, then monumental effort to get a judge to send the case back for another PRRA or H&C decision  and finally, more effort to persuade a CIC or PRRA officer that the Board got it wrong in the first place. Carole has had amazing success at pulling seemingly hopeless cases back from the fire, through huge personal effort, last minute stay applications, persuading a judge to allow a little time to take a second look.

We know Carole as a visionary leader, for both the Refugee Law Office and the wider legal community. She has been the force behind the RLO’s annual conference. She has served as an articulate and forceful spokesperson at legal workshops, professional education including for Federal Court judges, legal committees to devise appellate strategies and draft briefs for cases before the SCC.

The extraordinary group of lawyers and legal workers at the RLO carry an enormous workload of end of the road cases, where they win more than their share while, at the same time, doing all the extra, secondary work of legal education and public advocacy. They do it with intelligence, dedication and hard work. Carole has been their leader and inspiration. Her staff would, and sometimes have, walked through walls for her. She has led by example: working as hard or harder than any of her staff, by being smart, fearless, generous, and relentless. And she does it all with great elegance, humour, and joie de vivre.

CARL is tremendously proud to recognize Carole Dahan, our dear friend and colleague, as this year’s recipient of the CARLA award.