Childhood Arrivals Support and Advocacy (CASA) Program

The CASA program serves young people who were brought to Canada as children and yet are living in Ontario without immigration status. CASA provides outreach, legal representation, and trusted intermediary supports to ensure these “undocumented” young people, to help them access the knowledge, resources, and legal supports they need to take agency of their futures and live safe, secure, chosen lives.

Young people living without immigration status in Canada can face significant uncertainty and insecurity. Many people in this situation were brought to Canada when they were very young, and consequently they have little connection to their country of origin. Many are unaware of their lack of status, or its consequences, until they are late teenagers or high school graduates. Complex and overlapping issues of marginalization, including a lack of financial resources, difficulties accessing education, healthcare, housing, and employment, social isolation, and fear of detention or deportation often prevent CASA’s clients from getting the advice and help they need.

While usually able to access grade and high school through Ministry of Education directives, and school boards’ ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policies’, they are generally unable to access postsecondary education and their lives and career choices are comprehensively curtailed. Unlike the US, where ‘Dreamers’ have legislative protections, the situation for their counterparts in Canada is considerably less well known, understood or supported. Canada has no program, statutory or other formal response to promote a legal and stabilizing resolution to these young people’s situation.

Founded in 2016 in a voluntary capacity by Sarah Pole, the investment of a 12-month Law Foundation of Ontario Responsive Grant enabled CASA to integrate into JFCY in February 2020, with Sarah as part-time Program Director. CASA provides summary advice, referrals and legal representation for young people without status up to the age

CASA partnerships with Women’s Health in Women’s Hands, the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, FCJ Refugee Centre, Crossroad Refugee Clinic, and the S4 Collective.

Our goal is that CASA will enable us to dedicate time and expertise to ensuring young people – who rarely had agency in the decision to come to Canada – access to the supports they need to live safe, secure lives. CASA will also enable us to quantify an categorize the complex legal needs these young people have, and this data will shape our own advocacy and law reform initiatives, and help amplify migrant and child rights advocacy efforts broadly.

CASA is a timely expansion of JFCY’s existing services. The clinic has always been involved in immigration and refugee law issues and their impacts on children and young people, including providing direct legal representation, test case litigation, and law reform work, including those who have been involved in the child protection system; involvement in committees and research projects looking at the immigration detention of children; and the development of a system of Designated Representatives for child applicants.

CASA also facilitates legal education workshops with young people both in and out of classrooms, as well as with persons advocating on behalf or working with young people (for example teachers, guidance counsellors, principals, youth program leaders, and shelter workers).

For legal information on Immigration and Refugee law, visit our Legal Wiki

For more information about CASA, to access our services, or book a CASA workshop, please contact us.


CASA is supported by funding from:

The Law Foundation of Ontario