LAO Board Advisory Committees spring 2016 meeting: Updates and proposed priorities for 2017/2018

Presented to the Spring 2016 Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) Board advisory committee meetings
Prepared by Policy & Strategic Research Department
March 2016

Last updated: January 2017

1. The Advisory Committees and the business planning process

2. Environmental scanning questions

What trends and issues are likely to have an impact on LAO’s services, looking ahead to 2016/17? For example:

3. LAO updates

3.1 Advisory committee update: LAO Board approves public posting of committee minutes

3.1.1 Public posting process

Following advice received from the advisory committees during the fall 2015 consultations, LAO will ensure that:

3.2 New LAO president and CEO appointed

4. Financial eligibility expansion update

The following slides show results to the end of February 2016.

4.1 As a result of financial eligibility changes, 19,044 more certificates were issued this year compared to the same time last year

Screenshot of chart. Data in the table below.

The number of certificates issued (April to February)

Year 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16
Certificates 75,954 78,163 97,207

4.2 Criminal adult—minor offenses and family law have experienced the greatest rise in certificates since the implementation of both financial and legal eligibility change

Screenshot of chart. Data in the table below.

Certificates issued since the beginning of the financial year (April to February)

Year June to Feb. 2013/14 June to Feb. 2014/15 June to Feb. 2015/16
Criminal adult: serious 12,616 12,579 13,690
Criminal adult: minor 20,068 20,243 27,263
Crminal adult: other 3,013 3,096 3,466
Criminal youth 3,907 3,661 3,577
Family: CFSA 4,200 4,223 4,611
Family: Domestic violence 5,734 6,203 9,992
Family: No domestic violence 3,779 3,953 6,123
Family: ILA/SEP 0 2,153 2,107
Refugee 3,911 4,696 6,583
Refugee: RAD 132 198 502
Civil 3,355 3,621 3,806
Total 60,715 64,626 81,720

4.3 For minor adult cases, the greatest increase in certificates issued under new eligibility criteria can be seen from June 2015 onwards, when legal eligibility changes were introduced.

Screenshot of chart. Data in the table below.

Number of certificates issued for adult minor offenses

Month Fiscal year 2013/14 Fiscal year 2014/15 Fiscal year 2015/16
April 2,579 2,134 2,322
May 2,555 2,251 2,392
June 2,186 2,230 2,815
July 2,493 2,449 3,225
August 2,376 2,113 2,981
September 2,297 2,449 3,117
October 2,466 2,474 3,054
November 2,197 2,047 2,920
December 1,785 1,950 2,780
January 2,290 2,342 3,159
February 1,978 2,189 3,212
March 2,135 2,450  

4.4 The largest increase in financial eligibility is for family law clients where there are allegations of domestic violence

Screenshot of chart. Data in the table below.

Number of certificates issued for family law cases where there are allegations of domestic violence

Month Fiscal year 2013/14 Fiscal year 2014/15 Fiscal year 2015/16
April 739 644 953
May 770 656 1,037
June 660 605 1,184
July 699 758 1,114
August 717 623 1,050
September 691 719 1,107
October 722 641 1,184
November 598 622 1,015
December 423 612 906
January 635 839 1,246
February 589 784 1,186
March 606 972  

4.5 Certificates issued to young offenders have increased as a result of eligibility changes; however, they have not increased to the point of impacting the declining trend.

Screenshot of chart. Data in the table below.

Number of certificates issued to young offenders

Month Fiscal year 2013/14 Fiscal year 2014/15 Fiscal year 2015/16
April 511 385 395
May 517 416 349
June 492 458 405
July 497 451 414
August 438 378 392
September 447 454 404
October 468 409 405
November 457 382 382
December 311 341 375
January 431 424 426
February 366 364 374
March 369 378  

4.6 Child protection certificates have shown negligible increase in total number of monthly certificates issued

Screenshot of chart. Data in the table below.

Certificates issued for CFSA

Month Fiscal year 2013/14 Fiscal year 2014/15 Fiscal year 2015/16
April 584 496 502
May 519 499 528
June 466 484 493
July 482 443 474
August 446 426 441
September 462 461 496
October 491 518 558
November 521 437 506
December 377 408 505
January 486 537 599
February 469 509 539
March 508 557  

4.7 Expanded clinic funding

Funds already allocated:

Additional funds to be allocated:

5. LAO participation in justice system improvement initiatives

5.1 Attorney General’s Family Justice Roundtable

5.2 Attorney General’s criminal justice roundtable

5.3 Criminal justice modernization project

5.4 Appearing before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs

6. LAO introduces new mobile phone app

7. New LAO strategies approved

7.1 Bail strategy

7.2 Racialized communities strategy

7.3 Prison law strategy

7.4 Prison law test case strategy

7.5 Priority areas for prison law test case work (2015 to 2019)

The priority areas listed below will provide support for, where possible, individuals in both federal and provincial institutions, including those who are in remand:

8. Update on LAO strategies

8.1 Aboriginal Justice Strategy update

8.2 Mental Health Strategy update

8.3 Domestic violence strategy update

9. Clinic update

9.1 Provincial Fund to Expand Clinic Law Services

9.2 Expanded employment law services funded at six East Toronto legal clinics

10. 2016/17 business plan highlights and priorities

10.1 2015/16 accomplishments

10.2 LAO’s 2016/17 business plan priorities: the four strategic objectives

Four strategic objectives—value for clients, value for taxpayers, institutional enhancements and service provider support.

Value for clients

  • Increase access to justice

  • Implement service changes made possible by expanded financial eligibility

  • Address legal needs that complement the changes in financial eligibility

  • Develop and implement strategies to support vulnerable clients:

    • Aboriginal justice
    • Mental health
    • Domestic violence
    • Racialized communities
    • Accessibility: family mediation
    • Case management of criminal appeals
    • Bail
    • Prison law
  • Advance client-focussed technology

Value for taxpayers

  • Enhance governance and simplify decision-making: improve data collection

  • Enhance panel management

  • Support and incent clinic transformation

  • Develop a strategy to meet LAO’s commitment to transparency and open government; support the province’s Transparency and Open Government initiative

  • Support the Ministry of the Attorney General in addressing challenges related to the Program Review, Renewal & Transformation process

Institutional ehancements

  • Continue to create and sustain an inclusive and diverse workplace

  • Seek administrative efficiencies to assist in addressing financial pressures

  • Strengthen the Client and Lawyer Support Centre (CLSC)

  • Fully integrate technology into strategic planning to support LAO’s strategic directions

  • Continue to support staff development and training

  • Review space needs, and develop and implement strategies that support a mobile workforce

  • Develop succession plans to fill key positions within the organization.

Service provider support

  • Continue high-level stakeholder consultations

  • Continue to develop new district and regional networks to engage communities and stakeholders

  • Use media and other public communications methods to inform stakeholders of LAO’s programs, successes and future direction

  • Integrate stakeholder engagement business tool into enterprise risk management

  • Continued focus on panel standards, training, and quality supports

10.3 LAO performance measures

Measure Target Performance/Current assessment

Financial: Balanced budget

No deficit

Original 2015/16 forecast of operating deficit of $5.6 million has been reduced to $3.7 million for 2015/16

Financial: Productivity

Maintain level of $242 per assist

$281 per assist as of July 2015. Cost per assist has been rising (30 per cent tariff increase); more analysis is required

Financial: Administrative efficiency

Administrative costs at 10 per cent of total expenditures

Projected at 11 per cent for 2015/16; target for 2016/17 is 10 per cent

Timeliness of service: Client and Lawyer Service Centre

  • Level 1 and Lawyer Service Centre: 80 per cent of calls answered within three minutes.
  • Level 2 and Summary Legal Advice: 80 per cent of calls answered within 20 minutes
  • 2015/2016 (to February):
    • Level 1: 58 per cent
    • Level 2: 53 per cent
  • Summary Legal Advice: Family 71 per cent; Criminal 79 per cent
  • Lawyer Service Centre: 88 per cent
  • In February 2016, Level 1 agents answered 50 per cent more calls than in February 2015, and wait time average has decreased to 02:43 from 11:01

Timeliness of service: Same-day decisions

Target is 80 per cent same-day decisions

2015/2016 (to September 30): 76 per cent (up from 72 per cent in 2012/2013

Client satisfaction

Increased client satisfaction

Current level is 83.3 per cent, higher than broader public sector (BPS) organizations (BPS average 82 per cent in 2013)

Lawyer satisfaction

Increased lawyer satisfaction

57 per cent of lawyers paid by LAO between October 2014 and October 2015 are satisfied with their relationship with LAO (10-point increase over 2014 survey result)

Access to justice

Two million Ontarians financially eligible for LAO’s services by 2024

Number of eligible low-income Ontarians will increase from 1.0 million to 1.4 million by the end of 2015/2016, and to 1.54 million by the end of 2016/2017, significantly enhancing access to justice

11. Environmental scan: planning for 2017/18

11.1 Criminal law

11.1.1 Criminal law certificates and expenses

Certificates and expenses
Data table available below. Certificate expenses are relatively flat, certificate constant dollars are dropping, year over year.
Certificates 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Certificates issued 66,023 58,690 54,964 54,182
Certificates expenses $107.24 $105.27 $99.76 $100.13
Certificate constant $ $107.24 $99.90 $89.64 $83.71
Duty counsel expenditures and services
Duty counsel expenditures and services: data table available below. Duty counsel expenditures drop year over year. Duty counsel expenditures, including GDR and Brydges Hotline, stay relatively flat, year over year.
Item 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Duty counsel criminal services 807,943 715,636 666,316 629,033
Duty counsel expenditures (including GDR and Brydges Hotline, $millions) $30,54 $31,14 $30,11 $32,19

11.2 First Nation, Métis and Inuit clients

The data table below captures the percentage of Aboriginal clients, non-Aboriginal clients and not asked who received certificates for fiscal years 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15.

Fiscal year Aboriginal client Not Aboriginal client Not asked
FY 2010/11 13.8 per cent 66.8 per cent 19.4 per cent
FY 2011/12 15.5 per cent 64.0 per cent 20.5 per cent
FY 2012/13 16.3 per cent 62.2 per cent 21.5 per cent
FY 2013/14 17.3 per cent 69.9 per cent 12.8 per cent
FY 2014/15 18.7 per cent 73.3 per cent 8.0 per cent

11.3 Family law

11.3.1 Family law: expenses

Family expenses ($M)
The data table below captures the number of certificates issued, certificate expenses and certificate expenses for 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15. Certificate expenses are relatively flat year over year, and certificate expenses constant dollars is dropping, year over year.
Family expenses ($Millions) 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Certificates issued 21,348 18,918 19,014 22,086
Certificates expenses $50.6 $49.2 $47.2 $49.0
Certificate expenses constant $ $50.6 $46.6 $42.1 $40.8
Duty counsel services and expenses
Duty counsel services and expenses. The data table below shows total family law services expenses and duty counsel expenses. Duty counsel expenses are rising annually. Family law services rise 2009/10 to 2012/13, then drop.
Duty counsel 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Duty counsel expenses $12.07 $13.74 $14.37 $14.64 $15.92 $18.36
Total family law services 186,143 193,118 198,961 200,625 189,918 189,754

11.3.2 Family law data

Child protection certificates issued and new proceedings in Ontario’s courts
Child protection certificates issued and new proceedings in Ontario’s courts. Data table follows.
Child protection 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Child protection certificates issued 6,363 6,677 6,184 5,812 5,780
New child protection proceedings 10,549 10,543 10,447 9,588 9,307
New legal aid services in family law
New legal aid services in family law. Data table follows.
Services 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Domestic family law 16,543 13,070 11,541 11,991 12,699
Separation agreements - - - - 1,710
Independent Legal Advice (ILA) - - - - 726

11.4 Immigration and refugee law

Immigration and refugee expenses ($M)

Immigration and refugee certificate expenses. Data table follows.
Expenses ($Millions) 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Certificates issued 13,648 8,428 5,307 6,445
Certificate expenses $21.9 $19.6 $15.8 $15.8
Certificate expenses constant $ $21.9 $18.7 $14.3 $13.4

11.5 Clinic law services

Services 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Cases 19,781 20,903 22,519 22,316 22,321
Brief services 39,495 38,865 40,001 41,053 41,148
Advice 105,093 111,746 107,623 111,162 107,046
Total outreach 5,395 4,890 4,973 6,348 6,938
Referrals 51,249 51,823 47,503 45,622 44,449
Total services 221,013 228,227 222,619 226,501 221,902
Total services excluding referrals 169,764 176,404 175,116 180,879 177,453
Per cent change over previous year 2.97 per cent 3.91 per cent -0.73 per cent 3.29 per cent -1.89 per cent

11.5.1 Clinic law funding

Clinic law expenses (millions)
New clinic law expenses. Data table follows.
Expenses 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Clinic law services $57.9 $65.2 $67.1 $68.5 $72.1 $78.0
Student legal aid services societies $3.2 $3.3 $3.4 $3.2 $3.4 $4.4
Clinic information management project $0.0 $0.0 $0.3 $0.6 $0.0 $1.5
Total $61.1 $68.5 $70.8 $72.3 $75.5 $83.9

11.6 Service providers

Percent of earnings for recent calls

Per cent of earnings for recent calls. Data table follows.
Calls 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Called 2007 to 2009 5 per cent 7 per cent 7 per cent 7 per cent 8 per cent
Called 2010 to 2012 0 per cent 2 per cent 4 per cent 6 per cent 7 per cent
Called 2013 to 2015 0 per cent 0 per cent 0 per cent 1 per cent 2 per cent

11.7 Technology

11.8 International trends and developments

Appendix A: Report-back on the committees on the Fall 2015 meetings

LAO’s plans to develop a Racialized Communities Strategy were well-received, as were LAO’s intentions to take a strategic approach to bail system issues and the delivery of prison law services. A draft test case strategy for prison law was received by and endorsed by the Prison Law committee. Advice on data collection and use of technology was also provided by the committees.

A.1 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: Expanded eligibility for legal aid services

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • LAO should carefully monitor the number of expanded eligibility certificates being issued to First Nation, Métis and Inuit clients, and consider flexibility in issuing certificates if the numbers are not increasing as expected.

  • It would be helpful if LAO could track newly eligible clients going into the mental health system. Some new certificates may fall under more than one of the expansion priorities.

  • Clarity will be important to the development of an expanded service initiative for high conflict families. There is no single definition of a “high conflict” family matter. Academic work is being done in this area.

  • LAO continues to monitor the impact of expanded eligibility, and an evaluation is planned for 2016/17, once a sufficient amount of data is available.

  • Tracking of services provided to Aboriginal clients, including new expanded eligibility services, is a priority.

  • LAO’s ability to track the use of new services in greater detail is expected to improve over time.

  • LAO is continuing to work on ideas for a high conflict pilot project in the context of eligibility expansion, and will be consulting further prior to developing a final proposal for the project.

A.2 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: LAO’s vulnerable client strategies

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • LAO is doing a lot to make connections and increase services through its priority client strategies; continued funding to support these strategies will be important.

  • Consultation with consumer survivor groups will continue to be important to development of Mental Health Strategy initiatives.

  • As the Mental Health Strategy takes root in the community, there will be an obvious intersection with clients who have physical disabilities. If no dedicated strategy is planned for these clients, perhaps room could be found for them within the Mental Health Strategy, as it would seem to be a natural fit.

  • The Aboriginal Justice Strategy is viewed very positively in the community, although there are still service gaps and work to be done in terms of access to clinic law services. In Sarnia, the local Aboriginal outreach program is bringing good results. There are many other communities, including Sudbury, Ottawa, Owen Sound and Windsor, where this kind of outreach could make a real difference.

  • The upcoming development of a Racialized Communities Strategy is a positive and exciting development.

  • Consultation is a key component of LAO’s approach to the ongoing development of the strategies.

  • LAO will keep the intersections between vulnerable client groups in mind, including intersections with clients who have physical disabilities.

  • LAO is continuing to develop and explore its local approach to providing services to First Nation, Métis and Inuit clients and communities.

  • LAO will continue work developing its Racialized Communities Strategy. The strategy will:

    • identify barriers faced by racialized communities in accessing justice and develop strategies to address those barriers
    • identify gaps and create new services, programs, and resources

A.3 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: LAO bail strategy approach

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • LAO’s work on bail is important. LAO is going in the right direction by taking a more strategic approach to addressing bail system issues.

  • The list of recommended initiatives in LAO’s draft strategy paper on bail provides a strong framework for thinking about the bail problem, and LAO should continue working in this direction.

  • The draft paper could be expanded to include more exploration of the use of bail supervision programs, particularly in British Columbia. LAO might also want to recommend establishing stronger training and educational requirements for justices of the peace, or assigning provincial court judges to conduct bail hearings.

  • Bail system issues disproportionately affect First Nation, Métis and Inuit clients. Restrictive bail conditions and the emphasis placed on sureties tend to have a discriminatory effect when applied to these clients. LAO’s strategy in this regard should proceed carefully, focusing on the discriminatory impact.

  • There is a need to apply a Violence Against Women (VAW) lens when considering bail issues, to ensure that services are in place to protect victims as well as to protect the rights of the accused.

  • LAO’s Board has approved the development of a bail strategy for LAO. The bail strategy paper that was received by the Board was updated to incorporate feedback from advisory committee members.

  • The updated paper refers to British Columbia’s bail supervision program, which is delivered directly by the province. It also suggests that improved training or strengthened educational requirements for justices of the peace, who preside over the majority of bail hearings, could strengthen their skills and confidence in making bail orders that are consistent with the Criminal Code’s provisions.

  • The paper stresses that LAO’s bail system initiatives will not be developed in a policy vacuum, but rather in a manner that recognizes and works to address the connections and intersections that affect the vulnerable low-income client groups that LAO serves. In particular, LAO’s ongoing consultations with the Violence Against Women (VAW) community, most particularly in support of the development of a dedicated LAO Domestic Violence Strategy, ensure that LAO’s work on bail initiatives is situated within a broader context that acknowledges the risks faced by victims of domestic violence and the need to provide this vulnerable group with access to appropriate services.

A.4 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: bail issues

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • Including mental health requirements in bail orders is problematic; these are too easily entered into and often reflect crown or judicial overreach.

  • There may be opportunities to develop programs and services around bail for mental health clients who are frequently in and out of jail.

  • Bail reviews need to come forward expeditiously; clients are so anxious to be released that they will accept any list of conditions offered to them. Assurance of an expeditious bail review could make them more willing to contest unfavourable conditions.

  • LAO and the private bar need to work together to address the need to have bail hearings happen quickly. One reason for the number of appearances an accused makes prior to having a bail hearing is that private bar counsel are unavailable.

  • Difficulty in accessing the legal aid certificate application process on the day of arrest is contributing to bail hearing delays; eligible clients are being sent back to jail and spend up to two additional days there due to this issue. The problem is exacerbated when the client has mental health issues and requires assistance in making the application.

  • LAO will continue to consult and work with the Board advisory committees and with stakeholder groups to explore effective approaches to bail system issues as the bail strategy is developed.

  • Priority areas will include:

    • Improving services for mental health clients and Aboriginal clients
    • Access to rapid and targeted bail reviews

A.5 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: child protection issues

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • Children’s Aid Societies (CAS) are working to reduce the number of cases that proceed to litigation. This shift in focus has given rise to greater need for quick access to advice and assistance for families. An on-call telephone service, potentially modeled on the Brydges duty counsel advice hotline, could provide families with immediate access to advice from someone who is not in a position of conflict. An argument based on a Charter right to access advice could potentially be pursued through a test case.

  • Over-representation in child welfare matters is a serious problem that could be the subject of test case litigation. Aboriginal children make up 80 per cent of the docket in any jurisdiction where there is a reserve nearby. The Aboriginal-specific provisions of the Child and Family Services Act are frequently ignored and the least intrusive measures are often inadequately considered.

  • Tariff, coverage and case management issues exist in the child protection area. If there are too many pre-trial conferences the trial may be stretched out until the child is considered to have been settled with a foster family. These trials should be case-managed by LAO in the same manner as a criminal Big Case Management trial.

  • LAO is responding to this shift in focus and the corresponding need for parents to have access to upfront advice and assistance in a number of ways:

    • In June 2015, LAO introduced new certificates for parents involved in negotiations with a child protection agency, for services outside the court process
    • LAO has developed a new fact sheet and brochure with information about rights and where parents can go for legal aid assistance. The fact sheet is posted on LAO’s website.
  • LAO’s Group Application and Test Case Committee (GATCC) considers test case applications for test case funding. The GATCC program has recently been expanded.

A.6 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: Prison law test case strategy

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • LAO’s draft prison law test case strategy is supported; it identifies some of the most important issues in prison law.

  • The strategic priorities for prison law test case litigation should not be considered a closed category, as other issues could also arise that would merit test case funding. A rigid approach should not be taken.

  • In thinking about potential test case issues and developing trends that could benefit from strategic litigation, LAO should also be aware of the recommendations coming out of inquests.

  • Provincial inmates and persons in remand custody in provincial institutions also experience human rights violations and discriminatory practices that could be the subject of test case litigation. Issues affecting remand prisoners are different from those experienced by sentenced prisoners.

  • The LAO Prison Law Test Case Strategy was approved by LAO’s Board in December 2015.

  • The new strategy is posted on LAO’s website.

  • Priority areas for prison law test case work in the next five years have been established under the strategy, but the strategy also recognizes that these priorities do not constitute a definitive list and that additional priority areas will arise

  • The test case strategy’s priority areas will include, where possible, individuals in both federal and provincial institutions, including those who are in remand

A.7 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: Prison law strategy development

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • Development of a broader prison law strategy was supported. There are gaps in the current coverage that should be explored.

  • LAO could consider issuing certificates for meritorious institutional grievances. Frequently a case raises a good issue but cannot be litigated because it is based on grievances drafted by the prisoners themselves. There is also an issue of unequal gender access with respect to grievances: the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic assists with grievances at prisons in the Kingston area but cannot assist the female prisoners at Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener. Issuing certificates for grievances would address this gender access issue.

  • Another area where certificate coverage would be helpful is in creating a record of disciplinary hearings. Where a record is not created, an inmate’s chances of parole or transfer can be affected later on.

  • LAO was encouraged to maintain its emphasis on choice of counsel in developing test case and non-test-case prison law initiatives.

  • In addition to the prison law test case strategy, the development of the prison law strategy is likely to include reconsideration of priorities for non-test-case prison law services and certificates. LAO has heard that coverage for grievances, in particular, is an existing gap, especially outside of the Kingston area.

  • LAO will continue to consult on unmet needs and priorities as the strategy is developed.

A.8 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: Services for refugees and immigrants

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • LAO’s intention to develop services to support Syrian refugees arriving in Ontario is supported. LAO is encouraged to connect with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to discuss potential LAO responses to the global refugee crisis.

  • LAO could consider funding mandamus applications to compel the processing of cases where there has been indefinite delay.

  • LAO could encourage the Immigration and Refugee Board to expand the expedite process to more cases; expedited cases are less costly because they do not require hearings.

  • LAO could consider sending lawyers into correctional holding centres to provide information and advice to people in detention. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has introduced a pilot project that involves law students going into these centres to provide orientation and information sessions, and the project could be expanded by including legal advice.

  • Effective November 2, 2015, Syrian claimants who apply for Refugee Protection Division (RPD) coverage will be issued a 10-hour expedite legal aid certificate. The expedite certificate covers the preparation and filing of the Basis of Claim and other documents (e.g., submissions) in accordance with the Immigration & Refugee Board’s (IRB) expedited process for Syrian refugee claimants.

  • LAO has encouraged the Immigration and Refugee board to expand the refugee claim expedite process.

  • An initial meeting was held with the UNHCR representative and others regarding the refugee crisis and providing information and legal advice in correctional holding centres. Further action is required.

A.9 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: Clinic transformation and clinic law issues

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • There is a move towards providing more integrated services. Moving towards a collaborative, integrated service model is not easy but it is necessary because clients want services to be accessible and in one place.

  • The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) transformation process has been valuable for the GTA clinics because it revitalized them and invited thinking about doing things in new ways.

  • Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is the “elephant in the room” for clinic practice, absorbing more and more of clinics’ resources. LAO involvement in developing a strategy to deal with this problem, or potentially supporting clinic test case litigation on the issue, would likely be welcome.

  • Continuing to support clinic transformation initiatives is a business plan priority for LAO in 2015/16.

  • Many transformation initiatives that support a collaborative and integrated approach are underway or in development. Each region has a clinic-led transformation project. There are also subprojects by region as well as cross-regional and technology transformation projects underway.

A.10 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: Panel management and follow-up

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • It is important to have effective panel standards for lawyers doing both child welfare and criminal law work for First Nation, Métis and Inuit clients. The removal or threatened removal of a child is extremely serious, and the resource gaps are deeper in the child welfare area than in criminal law. LAO could consider moving forward with Gladue and child welfare standards simultaneously.

  • The peer review process that is a component of the new quality standards for refugee and immigration law services is very useful and will vastly improve the quality of client representation. It was suggested that LAO could successfully apply the peer review model to other lawyer panels.

  • LAO’s work on updating the family law panel standards could also include developing a panel for lawyers working with youth; young people in the child welfare system who have been charged with a criminal offence are a particularly vulnerable population and they face different kinds of legal issues.

  • LAO is conducting an evaluation of the refugee panel standards implementation to determine lessons learned and possible next steps with regard to quality standards of other LAO panels.

  • LAO will keep in mind the need for child welfare standards for panel lawyers working with First Nation, Métis and Inuit clients.

  • LAO will consider the applicability of the peer review model in other areas of law as part of its ongoing work on panel standards.

  • LAO is considering issues related to youth, and to crossover youth in particular, in the context of panel standards development.

A.11 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: training, mentoring and resources for service providers

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • Training in domestic violence awareness and Aboriginal cultural competency could be made available to non-LAO staff, including staff of partner agencies.

  • Lawyers working with youth who have become involved with the criminal justice system should be required to undergo targeted training.

  • LAO need not re-invent the wheel when it comes to providing online training resources, as some resources that would be useful to LAO already exist.

  • As LAO develops its resources and training programs, it will be important to make sure that materials and resources are updated and added to as needed in order to keep them current and keep building on the work that has been done.

  • Mentoring, including through LAO’s Second Chair program, is particularly important in the family law area since few articling positions have a family law component.

  • Lawyers working on prison law cases, and prison test cases in particular, need access to mentoring from a senior civil litigator.

  • Aboriginal cultural competency training will launch in 2016

  • Domestic violence awareness training will be expanded in 2016

  • LAO will consider the issue of training for service providers working with youth who are involved with the criminal justice system

  • The Second Chair mentoring program was expanded in 2015 to provide more opportunities for junior lawyers to work with experienced counsel on family, refugee, criminal and mental health law cases

  • LAO is considering how to address the need for involvement from civil litigators to support prison law test cases.

A.12 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: Technology

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • LAO could consider a 24-hour telephone advice hotline service, possibly based on the Brydges duty counsel phone service, to provide on-call advice to First Nation, Métis and Inuit families involved with the child welfare system. These clients often face pressure from child welfare officials to enter into agreements, and they need immediate access to impartial advice.

  • LAO could consider using technology to improve access to LAO’s in-person consultations for people who are located in more remote parts of the province and who face long travel times to attend a consultation session.

  • Accessible web access to LAO’s Mental Health Strategy and the ability to provide ongoing feedback on the strategy through the LAO website were encouraged.

  • Longer wait times for clients accessing the Client and Lawyer Service Centre (CLSC) were identified as an issue.

  • Ontario residents in the Ottawa area who need to contact LAO through the CLSC from the Quebec side are unable to use the toll-free 1-800 number to do so.

  • LAO has committed, in its 2016/17 business plan, to integrate technology to enhance organizational capacity and improve client service. LAO will be developing a report that will:

    • articulate a vision for effectively deploying technology to increase legal services
    • describe how LAO can leverage technology so that clients can best benefit
  • LAO has launched a mobile phone application to help people determine whether they are financially eligible for a legal aid certificate. The app also gives applicants real-time access to call centre wait times. Feedback to date has been positive.

  • In the coming months, LAO will be providing e-training for LAO staff for creation of accessible documents. The initiative will further LAO’s commitment to ensure that LAO meets legislative requirements to ensure availability of accessible documents for both internal and external users.

  • CLSC call volumes have increased, resulting in longer wait times; also, as LAO’s services have expanded, CLSC staff have spent more time on calls. Average talk time has increased, with a focus on quality of service.

  • The 1-800 number is not available outside of Ontario. People in Quebec (or anywhere else outside Ontario), can call directly at 416-979-1446.They can call this number collect. There is an automated greeting stating that LAO accepts collect calls.

A.13 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: Data collection

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • It would be helpful if LAO could collect statistics on race to support its work on the new Racialized Communities strategy.

  • It would be useful for LAO to be able to separately track the number of newly eligible clients going into the mental health system.

  • LAO could look into amending the forms that per diem duty counsel use in courthouses to include a tick-box to indicate if the client wishes to receive services in French.

  • LAO is developing a proposal to begin collecting information regarding race from applicants/clients for legal aid services. LAO is also working on a proposal to offer support to groups within the clinic system to make the collection of this information mandatory and reportable to LAO so that LAO can assist clinics to effectively plan and deliver services.

  • It is a goal for LAO to promote data collection by all client service providers within LAO to facilitate a common client record for all LAO services. This would include improving data collection for duty counsel clients.

A.14 Fall 2015 Committee advice and follow-up: Transparency

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • (Comments made in the context of discussing LAO’s proposal to post advisory committee information on its website:) Transparency is a key word today for every ministry, municipality and agency. These days there is no reason not to make more information available to the public.

  • It would be useful for advisory committee members to be able to see the specifics of LAO’s completed business plan as a follow-up to the early outline of likely priorities provided in the committee slide deck.

  • LAO has made a commitment to transparency and open government a priority in its 2016/17 business plan. LAO is developing the discussion paper Transparency and Open Data, and a public consultation process will take place when the paper is released

  • The strategy that LAO develops will also support the provincial government’s Transparency and Open Government initiative

  • Highlights of the 2016/17 LAO business plan are provided in this presentation. LAO is also making public business plans available on its website. The most recent to be posted, the 2015/16-2017/18 Public Business Plan (last year’s plan) can be accessed on the LAO website.

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