Public proceedings of the Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors on October 17, 2013


Board members present

John McCamus (Chair); Aly Alibhai; Nancy Cooper; Michelle Haigh; James McNee; Derry Millar; James Yakimovich; Robert W. Ward (CEO/Ex Officio)


David Field, Sue McCaffrey, Stephanie Mealing

1. Meeting agenda

The meeting agenda was adopted.

2. Disclosure of conflict of interest

No conflicts of interest were identified.

3. Adaptation of Board meetings

3.1 Decision

The Board adopted the minutes of the June 20 and 24, July 24, August 15, September 12 and October 1, 2013 Board meetings.

4. Board reports (Part 1)

4.1 Business planning update

Draft business plan

The President and CEO presented the draft business plan. He reported that LAO is on solid financial footing, with a balanced budget and minimal deficit. He also noted that program improvements and streamlining have been contributing factors to the organization’s financial success, that LAO is now viewed as an innovator within the criminal justice system, and that clinic modernization is beginning to achieve some measure of success.

LAO will be requesting $200 M in additional funding over a five year period to better address the needs of clients. Priority initiatives include:

  • increased financial eligibility, which is expected to benefit the entire justice system by reducing unrepresented litigants in the courts and is central to every area of law
  • an improved Aboriginal Justice Strategy
  • a Mental Health Strategy
  • an improved compensation structure for staff, etc.

The Board reviewed these priorities, the investment required to support LAO’s strategic direction and LAO’s recent investment in the areas of poverty and family law. It also discussed the need for statistics on unrepresented litigants in the courts, and the link between the reduced number of eligible people, court delays and justice denied.

The Board Chair reported on a successful and cost-effective program in California that provides service without the requirement of financial eligibility. He suggested obtaining information on this program.

The Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Compliance, reported ongoing work on an environmental scan to identify issues that will affect LAO over the next five years. He highlighted risk identification, assessment and mitigation strategies. He also reported on the new requirement to follow detailed instructions and a ministry-provided template, and that an Executive Summary will be generated.

The Chair suggested including a summary of the environmental scan that provides eight key take-away points. The Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Compliance, reported that a business case will accompany each funding request. When the Board provides final approval—and before the end of December—LAO will deliver its business plan to the ministry. This will allow time for component sections to be incorporated into the ministry’s plan.

4.2 Decision

The Board received the draft business plan.

4.3 Business Plan implementation strategy

The Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Compliance, reported that once the Board approves the Business Plan, an implementation plan will be approved that outlines what each division needs to do to develop its individual operational plan.

4.4 Decision

The Board approved the Business Plan Implementation Strategy.

4.5 Amendment to LAO’s privacy policy

The Vice-President and General Counsel reported on amendments to the policy which would permit LAO to report, to the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), the names of lawyers who continue to bill LAO but are not in good standing with the LSUC.

4.6 Decision

The Board approved the following amendments (marked in bold), to LAO’s privacy policy:

To the Law Society

  • Allegations of serious misconduct by a lawyer providing legal aid services relating to his or her integrity or professional misconduct; this disclosure would be made by the Vice President – Strategic Planning and Compliance or his or her designate. The information disclosed may include a copy of a legal aid client’s complaint and copies of legal accounts submitted by the lawyer. This disclosure may occur when it appears to LAO that a lawyer is practising under suspension or when the lawyer’s status indicates that he or she is not practising.
  • Not practising incorporates two Law Society status definitions:
    • Not Practising Law – Employed: A lawyer who is employed by an organization such as government, an educational institution, a company, a society, trade union, etc., and who does not provide legal services.
    • Not Practising in Ontario – Other: A lawyer who is currently not practising law and/or providing legal services.

4.7 Role and composition of the Board’s Clinic Committee

The Vice-President and General Counsel reported:

  • the LAO Governance Manual will be amended to reflect, as staff recommends, the Clinic Committee of the Board’s role in providing input into clinic policy and strategic initiatives
  • recommendations to change the composition of the committee and appoint a new Committee Chair.

4.8 Decision

The Board approved the following amendments (marked in bold) to the terms of reference for the Clinic Committee:

Duties of the Clinic Committee. As required by Section 8(1) of the LASA, the Clinic Committee is a standing committee of the Board of Legal Aid Ontario.

The Board assigns to the clinic committee authority to review, consider and advise staff on policy considerations and strategic initiatives with respect to community legal clinics and the provision of legal aid services in the area of clinic law, as may be required from time to time.

In addition to the functions assigned to it by the Board, the clinic committee shall:

  1. recommend policies and guidelines to the board in respect of the Corporation’s funding of clinics (LASA, s.8(4)(a))
  2. recommend standards to the board for the operation of clinics (LASA, s.8(4)(b))
  3. make decisions with respect to applications by clinics for funding and reconsider such decisions made by it or by an officer or employee of the Corporation (LASA, s.8(4)(c)) and
  4. any additional powers or duties assigned by the Board and
  5. appointment of new members to the Clinic Committee.

4.9 Defining the client of modest means and determining client’s willingness to pay for legal services

The President and CEO reported on a survey on the definition of “modest means.”

4.10 Decision

The Board received the report on client of modest means.

4.11 Group Applications and Test Case Committee (GATCC) membership

The President and CEO reported that Sam Rickett is resigning as GATCC Chair. The Chair will write a letter of appreciation to Mr. Rickett for his many years of service to LAO’s GATCC

4.12 Decision

The Board approved the appointment of Elizabeth Thomas as the new Chair and Marlys Edwardh to the Committee.

4.13 Two French-language clinics (Vanier and Centre francophone de Toronto) and the impact of the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act (PSCRA)

As a result of this legislation, staff at these clinics are currently receiving fifteen per cent less pay than their counterparts at other clinics. The two affected clinics were advised to appeal to an adjudicative tribunal, but the tribunal was disbanded before they could do so.

On a pilot basis to address this issue, LAO could provide these two clinics as well as Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation (NALSC) with envelope funding. Any expanded envelope funding initiative will be brought back to the Board for approval.

4.14 Decision

The Board approved the approach presented to address the impact of the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act on the Vanier and CFT clinics as well as Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation (NALSC).