Osler assisting Pro Bono Ontario with Canadian Legal Support for Ukrainians Hotline

Osler is working with Pro Bono Ontario to answer calls made to a free telephone hotline for those displaced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The goal is to provide centralized intake and referrals to Ukrainians affected by the ongoing war.

Currently, Maryna Polataiko and Gregory Corosky, associates in Osler’s Privacy and Data Management group, Sergey Stefanishin, Associate Director of Osler Works Transactional, and Ilia Kravtsov, an associate in the Insolvency and Restructuring and Litigation practice, have been working with the program. Andrea Boctor, partner and Chair of the Pensions and Benefits group, is supervising this initiative.

Maryna is actively recruiting additional lawyers from the firm to donate their time to the hotline. To adequately address the demand, additional legal professionals who speak Ukrainian or Russian are needed to volunteer.

Olha Senyshyn, a Ukrainian lawyer practicing immigration, refugee and family law, who was hired by Pro Bono Ontario to manage the program, says more people are arriving now from Ukraine.

“There was a bit of a lull in the summer because flight tickets were so expensive – now we are seeing a bigger spike in travelling and demand for help,” she says.

Osler took a leadership role early in this project’s life, donating knowledge resources and proactively recruiting lawyers to actively support this cause with Pro Bono Ontario.

Olha says most of the callers are not English speakers. “If the lawyers aren’t Russian or Ukrainian, they can’t answer many of the calls. Our goal is to address inquiries immediately when people call. Sometimes it’s a straightforward settlement question they have, and they just don’t know who to call or where to ask – that’s where I think it’s good to have a resource – someone they can trust that has the background to address their inquiries.”

Launched in June, Ukrainians in Canada and abroad can call the Pro Bono Ontario hotline and speak to a Canadian lawyer about a variety of issues, including:

  • applying under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program;
  • entering Canada;
  • extending a stay in Canada;
  • obtaining or extending a work permit or study permit;
  • sponsoring family;
  • remaining in Canada permanently;
  • housing and tenancy issues; and
  • navigating the legal system during their resettlement in Canada.

The hotline provides callers with summary legal advice and assistance on steps they can take, help drafting basic legal documents for use in the Canadian justice system, where appropriate, provide referrals to pro bono and other lawyers for ongoing services, and give referrals to other support services. The hotline is open Monday-Friday from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. EST. Services are available in English, Ukrainian and French.

PBO has partnered with the Ukrainian Canadian Bar Association to ensure that people can get linguistically and culturally appropriate legal services.

“Ukrainians and their Canadian family members have enough to worry about without trying to figure out how to navigate Canada’s justice system. They deserve our help during this difficult time,” says Lynn Burns, PBO’s Executive Director.

If you are interested in volunteering, please reach out to Maryna Polataiko.