Public proceedings of the Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors on October 3, 2014

Attendance

Board members present

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

Staff

David Field; Felice Lambermont; Jawad Kassab; Sue McCaffrey; David McKillop; Stephanie Mealing; Heather Robertson; Nye Thomas

1. Meeting agenda

The meeting agenda was adopted.

2. Disclosure of conflict of interest

No conflicts of interest were identified.

3. Board meetings

3.1 Decision

The Board adopted the minutes of the Board meetings held June 20, July 21 and 31, and August 19, 2014.

4. Chairs report

The Chair reported on the following:

4.1 Advisory committee meetings

All eight Board advisory committee meetings have been held in 2014. They altered their annual meeting schedule to more closely align their environmental scanning exercise with the strategic planning process.

Each advisory committee considered an outline of the LAO Business Plan, and developed an interim advisory committee report and subsequent addendum of committee member comments.

A committee member complimented the efforts of the Director General, Policy and Strategic Research, and the Director, Business Intelligence and Statistics, as well as other staff members who contribute to the Board advisory committee process.

4.2 Lawyer Workforce Strategy (LWS)

Some LAO Board members received an unsigned letter from the organizing committee of the LAO lawyers campaign for collective bargaining. The Board prepared and delivered a response. LAO will post its response onto its internal website.

4.3 Succession planning

The Succession Planning Committee of the Board met to review draft committee terms of reference. It will prepare revised terms of reference for Board approval, based on a scaled-down mandate.

4.4 Other clinic business

Board members agreed that the original clinic funding committee should be the decision-maker for clinic determinations, and should not become involved in operational issues.

They also discussed:

  • recent amendments to the clinic committee terms of reference and the potential for the clinic committee to play a more proactive role in areas such as the clinic transformation process
  • how to encourage clinics to participate in the transformation process
  • some of the history of the clinic system, including the fact that legal aid and clinic systems were founded as separate entities

The President and CEO reported on ongoing dialogue with MPPs. One-on-one meetings with MPPs and/or their assistants will be mandated regularly and systemically, and the results will be reported back to the Board at its next meeting in December.

The President and CEO added that clinic transformation is not an LAO-led initiative; clinics are leading a debate within their communities about how to become more efficient and effective, supported by LAO where necessary. In addition, he said that the two project leads in GTA clinic transformation are willing to update the Board on the GTA Legal Clinic Transformation Project Vision Report.

The Chair reported on an event attended by GTA project leads, some Osgoode professors and others to discuss the concept of community. Available material from the event will be forwarded to Board members.

4.5 Expenses

The Chair reported that his total expenses for the reporting period were $0.

4.6 Decision

The Board received the Chairs report.

5. President and CEOs Report (second instalment)

The President and CEO reported on the following:

5.1 Media

The President and CEO highlighted some individual media articles, including the Law Times opinion poll finding that 64% of respondents agreed with duty counsel expansion, as well as positive comments on family law incentives and SLASS funding.

5.2 Quarterly workforce report

This report tracks a significant increase in direct client services. Among its highlights:

  • 64 per cent of LAO staff provide direct client facing service
  • modernization is reflected in LAOs staff complement and other changes
  • sick days are trending down slightly
  • LAO provides training courses, including modules to acquaint staff with the culture of being a public servant employed by LAO and how to practice as an advocate/lawyer.

The President and CEO reported that:

  • the majority of the increased staff capacity comes from duty counsel and other staff lawyers; the Audit and Compliance Unit has also increased in capacity, as directed by the Board
  • more detailed information on the nature of the increases in staff complement will be provided to the Board
  • the private bar is unable to provide needed client service 100% of the time and LAO has a strategy to fill the gaps

5.3 Litigation report

The Board discussed the degree of confidentiality of client information in this report. There has been a slight uptick in the number of assessment officers reviewing lawyers accounts, and assessment decisions are public.

An assessment officers unfavourable decision could result in LAO applying for judicial review.

One Big Case Management (BCM) case was referred to outside counsel on the basis that BCM cases are outside the tariff regime.

The Board will be kept informed of any developments.

5.4 Decision

The Board received the President and CEOs report.

6. Committee reports

6.1 Minutes of Board committee meetings

Audit & Finance committee meeting

Decision

The Board adopted the minutes of the meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee of the Board held on September 17, 2014.

Clinic Committee of the Board meetings

Decision

The Board adopted the minutes of the meetings of the Clinic Committee of the Board held on June 24, 2014, July 11, 2014 and August 8, 2014.

7. Board reports

7.1 President and CEO performance contract for 2014/15

The Board discussed the President and CEOs performance contract for 2014/15.

7.2 Decision

The Board approved the 2014/15 performance contract for the President and CEO as amended.

7.3 Contingency planning report

The Board discussed contingency planning.

7.4 Decision

The Board received the report on contingency planning strategy.

7.5 2015/16 draft business plan

The Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Compliance presented the latest draft of the 2015/16 business plan, highlighting some changes from the earlier draft. There are no major issues of concern, but the next version will include:

  • references to the mandate letter from the Premier to the Attorney General, including indications that LAOs business plan is consistent with the direction of the mandate letter
  • advice received during the advisory committee process
  • the results of a client satisfaction survey received this week
  • as required by MAG, a three-year financial summary.

The President and CEO noted that the Boards decision to move the environmental scanning process to the spring has provided a better opportunity to respond. He reported that this business plan is constantly evolving and seeks the Boards advice.

7.6 Decision

The Board approved the 2015/16 draft business plan.

7.7 Test case transformation project

The Board had previously approved a project to expand LAOs support for test case litigation and clarify LAOs place in the test case world, as the refugee law test case strategy has done. There has been extensive consultation—38 meetings—to determine how LAO can improve.

The Vice-President, Provincial Case Management Office and Special Projects, reported that:

  • a new streamlined test case program will result in more strategic use of public resources
  • pursuant to LAO strategic policies, cases involving Aboriginal and mental health and other social justice issues would have priority
  • LAO will seek further advice from stakeholders and experts
  • a number of cases affect individual rights and Charter challenges.

In response to a question about whether the Board should provide guidance on policy objectives, the President and CEO said that:

  • although LAO may suggest areas of corporate priority, it should not provide specific direction to test case committees
  • there is a need for clarity in the roles of management and staff in test cases and the development of test case policy.

The Board discussed:

  • the types of direct test cases and interventions contemplated, i.e. criminal defence, class actions, inquests, etc.
  • the need for increased visibility for LAOs Group Applications and Test Case Committee procedures and outcomes
  • the potential for conflict with other agencies doing test case work.

The Chair suggested more full reporting on test case achievements, and the Board agreed there are difficulties in determining and measuring the success of a test case. The Chair also suggested that the Board should have a role in approving the criteria and setting priorities.

The President and CEO added that LAO may develop a relationship with the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) to address test cases in a more robust manner.

7.8 Decision

The Board approved these recommendations:

  • LAO continue its test case modernization initiative, consistent with the themes identified in the report
  • LAO develop a new definition of public interest case and GATCC eligibility criteria strategic priorities for test cases in immigration and refugee law and the Refugee Law Office
  • LAO develop proposed next steps for the Test Case Transformation Project.

7.9 Refugee panel standards

The Executive Lead, Refugee Reform reported that:

  • a process has been established to provide remedial training and to remove panel members who are unable to comply with the new panel standards
  • the standards specify that empanelment can be refused if it is in the public interest
  • LAO is contemplating panel removal for approximately 10 per cent of the existing refugee panel, but LAO will provide dis-empaneled lawyers with an opportunity for reconsideration and readmission to the panel
  • LAO has consulted extensively with stakeholders
  • Because LAO receives all Basis of Claim (BOC) forms for LAO refugee clients, LAO case assess the quality of the work.

When the Vice-President and General Counsel commented on the lengthy panel removal process and the need to establish an independent internal decision-making process, the Executive Lead, Refugee Reform reported that:

  • new panel standards are under construction in other areas of law
  • the Directors General continue to deal with problematic lawyers in their districts
  • conditional or probationary panel membership is possible in certain circumstances
  • panel membership will expire after three years, with a requirement to reapply.

7.10 Decision

The Board approved the revised refugee panel standards.

7.11 LAOs contribution to international legal aid plans

The Vice-President, Policy, Research and External Affairs advised that:

  • LAO has participated in a great deal of international development work with legal aid plans around the world
  • LAO hosts delegations, and more intensive projects require staff to travel to other countries
  • Typically, LAO provides the expertise, the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) manages the administration, and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) manages financial support
  • where there is an element of risk to personal safety, LAO will refuse an invitation to travel to the areas in question
  • Among the successes: Bangladesh has set up a duty counsel program that mirrors that of LAO, and China has instituted many services that mirror those of LAO, i.e. panel standards, business planning process, poverty law clinics, etc.
  • LAOs contribution can enhance its reputation and is appreciated internationally.

The President and CEO remarked that these legal aid development programs provide cultural and stimulating developmental opportunities for senior executives. A cost-benefit analysis would be difficult, but sharing LAOs expertise fits within LAOs access to justice mandate.

The Vice-President presented three options for LAOs future participation in international development opportunities.

7.12 Decision

The Board approved Option 1to continue engaging in international legal aid work. Two members dissented.