Update on current and future LAO initiatives

Presented to Fall 2015 committee meetings
Prepared by Policy & Strategic Research Department, Policy, Research & External Relations at LAO
September/October 2015

Last updated: September 2016

1. Questions for the committees

  1. What can members report about the impact of eligibility expansion implementation?
  2. What advice can members provide in relation to LAO’s priority strategies?
    • Aboriginal Justice
    • Mental Health
    • French Language Services
    • Domestic Violence
    • Racialized Communities?
  3. Are there opportunities for partnership and collaboration that members can suggest?
  4. How can LAO develop an integrated digital strategy (better aligning strategy with technology)?

2. LAO updates

2.1 Expanded eligibility for legal aid certificate services

Chart 1: Overall impact – total legal aid certificates issued

			Chart for the overall impart of total legal aid certificates issued. 
			For the 2013-14 fiscal year the chart shows: 
			7,757 in April, 7,664 in May, 6,862 in June, 7,469 in July, 6,953 in August, 6,996 in September, 7,468 in October, 6,845 in November, 5,461 in December, 7,171 in January, 6,369 in February, and 6,663 in March. 
			For the 2014-15 fiscal year the chart shows: 6,658 in April, 7,049 in May, 6,820 in June, 7,577 in July, 7,110 in August, 7,932 in September, 7,892 in October, 6,757 in November, 6,448 in December, 7,850 in January, 7,104 in February, and 8,082 in March. 
			For the 2015-16 fiscal year the chart shows: 7,631 in April, 8,635 in May, 9,071 in June, 9,267 in July, and 8,725 in August. 
			The chart also notes that the introduction of new family law services (ILA/SEP) was in July 2014, the first increase to financial eligibility thresholds was in November 2014, the second increase to financial eligibility thresholds was in April 2015, and that there were changes to legal eligibility in June 2015.

Chart 2: Impact on minor criminal cases – total certificates for adults with minor offenses

			Chart for the impact on minor criminal cases showing the total certificates for adults with minor offences. 
			For the 2013-14 fiscal year the chart shows: 2,610 in April, 2,588 in May, 2,223 in June, 2,542 in July, 2,416 in August, 2,313 in September, 2,519 in October, 2,252 in November, 1,810 in December, 2,333 in January, 2,012 in February, and 2,188 in March. 
			For the 2014-15 fiscal year the chart shows: 2,180 in April, 2,289 in May, 2,277 in June, 2,507 in July, 2,149 in August, 2,501 in September, 2,522 in October, 2,094 in November, 1,993 in December, 2,403 in January, 2,235 in February, and 2,492 in March. 
			For the 2015-16 fiscal year the chart shows: 2,385 in April, 2,437 in May, 2,861 in June, 3,262 in July, and 3,029 in August. 
			The chart also notes that the first increase to financial eligibility thresholds was in November 2014, the second increase was in April 2015, and there were further changes to legal eligibility in June 2016.

Chart 3: Impact on family law cases where there have been allegations of domestic violence

			Chart for the impact on family law cases where there have been allegations of domestic violence. 
			For the 2013-14 fiscal year the chart shows: 739 in April, 770 in May, 660 in June, 699 in July, 717 in August, 691 in September, 722 in October, 598 in November, 423 in December, 635 in January, 589 in February, and 606 in March. 
			For the 2014-15 fiscal year, the chart shows: 644 in April, 656 in May, 605 in June, 773 in July, 678 in August, 757 in September, 679 in October, 650 in November, 629 in December, 866 in January, 807 in February, and 1,004 in March. 
			For the 2015-16 fiscal year the chart shows: 987 in April,  1,076 in May, 1,221 in June, 1,156 in July, and 1,091 in August. 
			The chart also notes that the introduction of new family law services (ILA/SEP) was in July 2014, the first increase to financial eligibility thresholds was in November 2014, the second increase to financial eligibility thresholds was in April 2015 and that there were changes to legal eligibility in June 2015.

Chart 4: Impact on family law cases where there have been no allegations of domestic violence

			Chart for the impact on family law cases where there have been no allegations of domestic violence. 
			For the 2013-14 fiscal year the chart shows 542 in April, 561 in May, 437 in June, 453 in July, 378 in August,405 in September, 471 in October, 406 in November, 325 in December,470 in January, 434 in February, and 472 in March. 
			For the 2014-15 fiscal year the chart shows: 455 in April, 417 in May, 423 in June, 622 in July, 819 in August, 821 in September, 746 in October, 608 in November, 564 in December, 653 in January, 608 in February, and 823 in March. 
			For the 2015-16 fiscal year the chart shows: 702 in April, 744 in May, 892 in June, 920 in July, and 876 in August. 
			The chart also notes that the introduction of new family law services (ILA/SEP) was in July 2014, the first increase to financial eligibility thresholds was November 2014, the second increase to financial eligibility thresholds was April 2015, and there were changes to legal eligibility in June 2015.

2.2 Expanded eligibility for clinic and SLASS services

2.3 Clinic transformation

2.4 Attorney General’s justice round tables

2.5 LAO’s papers for the family and criminal justice tables

2.6 Aboriginal Justice Strategy: Highlights

2.7 Mental health strategy: Highlights

2.9 Domestic violence strategy: Highlights

2.9 French Language Services: Highlights

In the past year:

2.10 Bail

2.11 Prison law

2.11.1 Expansion of clinic prison law services

2.11.2 LAO Prison Law Planning Process

2.12 Test cases

2.12.1 Examples of issues raised by GATCC-supported test cases (2012/13 to 2015, year to date)

Aboriginal issues

Challenges to composition of jury rolls; denial of status pursuant to the Indian Act; infringement of Aboriginal rights under s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982

Clinic law

Recognition of a constitutional right to a housing strategy to address homelessness; human rights challenges based on discrimination

Criminal law

Constitutional challenges to provisions in the Criminal Code dealing with prostitution-related activities, mandatory minimum sentences, mandatory Victim Fine Surcharge

Family law

Amendments to Crown Wardship provisions; Family Law Act’s differential treatment of the right to child support as compared to the Divorce Act

French language rights

Breach of language rights related to the criminal process (federal prosecutions)

Immigration & refugee

Challenges to provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act including its criteria for designating a country as a Designated Country of Origin and provisions on inadmissibility to Canada

Mental health law

Challenges to long-term mental health detention; coercive delivery of treatment through community treatment orders; failure of a mental health facility to provide notice of restrictions on liberty

Prison law

Challenges to use of segregation; recognition of a right to a clean needle and syringe program in prisons

3. Planning for 2016/16: Key environmental factors and early identification of priorities

3.1 Fiscal environment & factors

3.2 Provincial priorities: ministry mandate letter

In 2014, the Premier provided each cabinet minister with a mandate letter outlining expectations for that ministry over the course of the government’s current mandate. For the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) the key priorities are:

3.3 Client and service trends

3.3.1 Criminal law

3.3.2 Family law

3.3.3 Immigration and refugee law

3.3.4 Service providers

3.4 Broad strategic direction for 2016/17

3.5 Likely priorities for 2016/17

3.5.1 Value for clients

3.5.2 Value for taxpayers

3.5.3 Institutional enhancements

3.5.4 Service provider support

3.6 Expanded eligibility: next steps

		Arrow graphic showing expanded eligibility steps in order. The steps include:
		Step 1: Continued monitoring and reporting on new services, 
		Step 2: Continued consultation, 
		Step 3: Planning for more comprehensive, longer-term evaluation process, and 
		Step 4: With experience, evaluating available funds for potential further expansion

3.7 Developing next steps for LAO client strategies

3.7.1 Aboriginal justice strategy: Looking ahead

3.7.2 Mental health strategy: Looking ahead

3.7.3 Domestic violence strategy: Looking ahead

3.7.4 French Language Services: Looking ahead

Continue to build on achievements of prior years with focus on:

3.8 Continued support for Attorney General’s justice round tables

3.9 Other potential 2016/17 initiatives

3.9.1 Transparency

3.9.2 Tariff reform

4. Advisory committee consultation on public posting of committee information on the LAO website

4.1 Proposal for consultation

4.2 Why should the public have access to information about the advisory committees?

The Board Advisory Committees play a significant role. They are statutory committees, mandated in LAO’s governing legislation.

Section 7 of the Legal Aid Services Act, 1998 provides that:

7.(1) The board shall establish an advisory committee in each of criminal law, family law and clinic law and in any other prescribed area of law.

(2) The board may establish other advisory committees that it considers appropriate.

The advisory committee Terms of Reference give the advisory committees an important mandate:

“to provide input and advice to the LAO Board to support LAO’s annual strategic and business planning process “

4.3 Current state

4.4 Consultation questions

Appendix A: Report-back on the spring 2015 committee meetings

A.1. Overview of the Spring 2015 meetings: Eligibility expansion consultation

Each committee identified and prioritized potential certificate expansion initiatives. The most frequently mentioned priorities related to new coverage or expanded coverage for:

In clinic law, service expansion for the areas of employment law and immigration law, in particular, was advised.

A.2 Overview of the Spring 2015 meetings: Environmental scan input from the committees

A.2.1 Impact of changing demographics

A.2.2 Systemic issues

A.2.3 Legislation, case law and government priorities

A.3 Spring 2015 committee advice and follow-up

A.3.1 Certificate eligibility expansion approach

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • Prioritize needs: take a triage approach
  • Focus on early intervention strategies
  • Take test cases into account as part of the expansion strategy: targeted test cases can be an effective way to direct resources to new coverage areas
  • Consider delivering some types of expanded services in different ways, and evaluate the outcomes
  • Act quickly where client needs are pressing
  • Do not lose track of less frequent, but deep, legal needs
  • Further consultation is required for some potential areas of expansion in the area of family law
  • LAO’s legal eligibility expansion initiatives reflect what LAO has heard about priority client needs in each area of law.
  • Early intervention has been emphasized in new certificates for first –time accused and accused facing serious secondary consequences, non-litigation certificates for CFSA matters, and bail review certificates.
  • As part of eligibility expansion, LAO is expanding coverage and access for test cases
  • LAO is monitoring and evaluating the progress of the new services and will continue to consult with stakeholders.

A.3.2 Test case and public interest work

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • Support for LAO’s public interest test and strategic approach
  • LAO needs to get the word out about its new public interest test
  • Consider support for regional test cases: a test case issue is not necessarily addressed by funding a single case
  • Clinics should be able to access a list of cases recently funded by GATCC, as they may be involved in or aware of other cases raising the same issues
  • Think about providing support for: appeals, Charter challenges, cases that raise Aboriginal issues, addressing lack of follow-up on inquest recommendations
  • LAO is continuing to focus on and improve its approach to test case and public interest work. Strengthened coordination and partnerships will continue to be part of this focus
  • As one of the eligibility expansion initiatives announced by LAO on June 8, 2015, LAO will be issuing more Group Applications and Test Case Committee (GATCC) certificates under its expanded public interest eligibility test. This will allow more important test cases to come forward. GATCC approvals and budget commitments have increased this year
  • LAO has been working to increase awareness of the new public interest test and the important role that test cases play in improving access to justice for low-income Ontarians and disadvantaged communities. Going forward, LAO is seeking agreement of litigants receiving GATCC funding to make LAO’s support of their test case public

A.3.3 Clinic eligibility expansion

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • Begin conversations about 2015/16 soon, to allow clinics to plan
  • Focus on service expansion in areas of employment law and immigration law
  • Pressures associated with Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) work are huge, and should not be allowed to absorb the new funding
  • Reporting on use of the new funding is not just about counting case files
  • LAO has worked with clinics and the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario (ACLCO) on the next phase of clinic expansion funding, and announcements were made in July 2015 establishing clinics’ eligibility expansion funding allocations for 2015/16.
  • Employment law and immigration law are recognized as important areas for expansion
  • LAO is aware of ODSP issues; the new funding is intended to support services to newly eligible clients

A.3.4 Clinic transformation

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • Focus on providing tools for unpacking transformation principles: terms like “co-ordination” mean different things to different people.
  • The clinic needs assessments are particularly valuable.
  • Clinic lawyer salaries were raised as a matter of concern; it was reported that clinics may be becoming incubators for lawyers going on to higher-paid work
  • LAO continues to support clinic-led transformation projects across the province.
  • Clinic compensation increases have averaged 3.45 per cent over the past six years. A two per cent compensation increases, retroactive to April 1, 2014, was approved for 2014/15.

A.3.5 Panel management and quality

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • LAO needs an effective panel removal process that does not depend on Law Society proceedings to trigger action
  • New refugee law panel standards implementation process: support for the peer review component; some concerns about time and administrative resources dedicated to reviewing every lawyer on the panel
  • Quality is a longstanding and chronic problem for the refugee bar: mentoring, training and oversight are necessary to address quality issues

A.3.6 Senior staff litigators (criminal law)

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • Their ability to assist financially or legally ineligible clients is positive
  • They could potentially play a role in supporting bail initiatives
  • Clarification should be provided about:
    • their role in s.486 Criminal Code (cross-examination of a witness/complainant) and amicus appointment work;
    • LAO’s policy on offering senior litigators as co-counsel to the private bar
  • Senior and MCMO counsel can accept court appointments in some circumstances. In some cases, they are appointed where the client presents certain challenges or local counsel aren't reasonably available. In other cases, where they have some capacity, they will take on such appointments. s.486 clients are unrepresented and in some circumstances, with broader financial and legal eligibility criteria, staff lawyers are able to offer them full representation, effectively reducing the number of unrepresented accused at trial.
  • Co-counsel opportunities are offered in several ways. LAO will sometimes offer staff lawyers to act as junior co- counsel on major cases such as homicides. The feedback on the quality of these lawyers has been excellent. Hours within budgets are not reduced when these partnerships are entered into. In some cases, senior staff lawyers are partnered to mentor less experienced private bar lawyers on homicides and major cases. This assists less experienced private bar lawyers to get the experience they need.

A.3.7 Training initiatives

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • Cultural competency training should be a requirement for anyone providing services to Aboriginal people.
  • Domestic violence training should be mandatory for certificate panel lawyers as well as LAO and clinic staff.
  • Mentoring and training, along with oversight, are crucial to addressing longstanding issues with quality of service to vulnerable refugee clients.
  • The judiciary could benefit from having access to information and education on issues affecting LAO’s clients and services.

LAO is committed to training:

  • As of July 2015, Domestic Violence (DV) training had been provided to over 900 LAO staff around the province. As a next step, LAO is working on a proposal to expand DV training to per diem duty counsel and interested clinics
  • Aboriginal cultural competency training will be provided to all LAO staff in 2015/16.
  • LAO’s Second Chair mentoring program for lawyers working in family, refugee, mental health and criminal law has been revised. It now offers funding for case-by-case mentoring as well as the option of pre-approval for a pre-determined number of mentoring hours
  • LAO is following up on providing information to the judiciary, where there is interest

A.3.8 Data collection and assessment tools

Committee advice LAO follow-up
  • Consider tracking data on impact of factors such as race or language on legal issues
  • Support for the guided interview resource for mental health and addictions; be aware of resource needs
  • Care is needed in approaching potential use of domestic violence risk assessment tools
  • Legal health check-up tool for clinics in the Southwest Region is positive
  • Getting better data on Francophone clients: consider survey forms, client satisfaction surveys, duty counsel “tick boxes”. Be aware of the distinction between oral and written communication in French: ask about preferences. Call centre clients may choose service in English to get through faster

Data collection and assessment tools support LAO’s client service and decision-making capacity.

  • LAO is considering tracking data on the impact of client factors such as race or language.
  • LAO does not currently conduct an official domestic violence risk assessment. LAO’s Consultation Paper on development of a Domestic Violence Strategy asks a number of consultation questions that relate to potential use of such tools.

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