Public proceedings of the Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors on December 5, 2013


Board members present

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


David Field, Sue McCaffrey, Stephanie Mealing

1. Chair’s report

1.1 Nishnawbe-Aski (NAN) justice summit in Thunder Bay

The Chair, attended this three-day summit and delivered the keynote speech at the dinner. The summit was particularly informative in identifying the problems of Aboriginal communities in the North. Joined by the CEO and LAO staff, he also:

  • met with the Dean of Lakehead University Faculty of Law to discuss next steps for a Student Legal Aid Services Society (SLASS)
  • met with the Honourable Frank Iacobucci to discuss legal aid issues; the committee formed to implement the Iacobucci Report recommendations is aware of LAO’s interest and support.

1.2 Kingston SLASS

The Chair, LAO’s Vice-President, North, Central and Eastern Regions, Dean William Flanagan and Kingston’s SLASS program directors met to discuss new initiatives.

1.3 Sidney B. Linden and other awards

The Chair and Dean Flanagan hosted The Sidney B. Linden Award ceremony on Queen’s University Campus in Kingston, on November 27, 2013. Fergus J. “Chip” O’Connor won the award for his extensive contributions to prison law.

The Sidney B. Linden Award Selection Committee suggested instituting additional service awards for internal and external service providers. The President and CEO will seek advice from the Ontario Public Service and others and will present a list of options for Board consideration.

1.4 Fall 2013 Board advisory committees

The Fall 2013 Board advisory committee meetings have concluded. Committee members provided interesting and constructive feedback. The special advisor on clinic transformation presented positive observations to the clinic law advisory committee on the current state of clinic modernization, including the signed framework agreement with 16 Greater Toronto Area (GTA) clinics. She also reported that 82 per cent of clinics are voluntarily involved in some form of transformation exercise, despite some tension in the relationship between LAO and the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario (ACLCO).

1.5 Caucus briefing

The Chair and the President and CEO will brief the provincial caucus next week.

2. President and CEO’s Report

The President and CEO reported as follows:

2.1 Personnel

Tracy Roll, the district area director in Thunder Bay, passed away suddenly this week.

2.2 NAN justice summit

The NAN justice summit was especially helpful in forging positive relationships with Aboriginal communities in the North.

2.3 Mental Health Justice Strategy

LAO’s Mental Health Justice Strategy has been released to the public. Representatives from the Premier’s Office and the Ministry of the Attorney General have provided positive feedback.

2.4 Clinic transformation

LAO has entered into a framework agreement committing the GTA’s 16 clinics to modernization initiatives. The framework demonstrates LAO support for clinic restructuring efforts, and any savings achieved will be reinvested into client services. LAO’s agreements are with clinics, not with the ACLCO, so discussions have been, for the most part, with individual clinics.

Specialty clinics are working on a co-location project, and other clinics are involved in centralization discussions.

2.5 Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs)

A draft AFA with a GTA law firm is nearing completion.

2.6 Lawyer Workforce Strategy (LWS)

LAO’s LWS Committee is meeting regularly and discussing, among other matters, lawyer compensation. At the suggestion of the LWS committee, LAO has reformatted the lawyer compensation proposal while maintaining the same cost to the organization, as follows:

  • increase LAO minimum salaries to equal minimum MAG salaries
  • increase LAO maximum salaries to equal maximum clinic salaries (a positive step, though they would still be lower than MAG maximum salaries).

The Vice-President and General Counsel commented on other LWS Committee restructuring suggestions, such as enhanced career path opportunities. She also reported on efforts to communicate the work of the LWS Committee to all LAO lawyers and signal the organization’s intention to improve their situation as quickly as possible.

The Board discussed:

  • the causes for the decrease in assists—this could include non-lawyers providing some services, diversion, Justice on Target, fewer charges laid, etc.
  • the organizing committee’s allegations of discrimination against women and LAO’s reputation as an employer.
  • an expected $8 million cost increase over a three-year period to fund the New Compensation Framework.

2.7 Refugee judicial reviews

The onus is currently on individual lawyers to develop and fund applications for judicial review. LAO only reimburses approved applications.

According to internal research, this approach can result in eligible clients remaining unserved. LAO’s Refugee Law Office (RLO) will therefore undertake this work in the interim, and LAO will consult with the refugee bar. The cost implications will not be significant. This item will come back to the Board for approval of next steps.

2.8 Privacy breaches

LAO has recently experienced a number of minor privacy breaches, largely as a result of human error. LAO’s policy is to immediately report any significant breaches to the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Staff has been reminded of correct procedures.

2.9 Proactive disclosure

The President and CEO disclosed his corporate expenses for the third and fourth quarters.

3. Reports

3.1 Audit and Finance Committee

The Board adopted the minutes of the November 13, 2013 Audit and Finance Committee meeting.

3.2 2014/15 business plan

The Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Compliance, presented the most recent draft of the 2014/15 business plan, updated from a previous Board-approved version. It now includes regional priorities and all business cases submitted to the Attorney General, in an OPS-approved template.

Further discussion included the following:

  • Staff around the province as well as the LWS Committee have seen the business plan. A public version of the business plan will be created for external disclosure.
  • Work space and addressing the demand for services with increased eligibility are major issues. The digital divide will soon become an issue, with implications on how LAO delivers mobile service, using new technology, to its clients.
  • The Chair can edit the business plan after the Board approves it.
  • Statistics in the business plan on the increasing over-representation of Aboriginal people in the justice system are a concern. LAO should take the lead in developing a more holistic approach to address this issue.

3.3 Paralegal project

The paralegal project update was tabled.