Legal Aid Ontario Responds to Globe & Mail Article
Posted on: Friday, September 25, 2009
To the Editor Globe and Mail
Legal Aid Ontario would like to correct the misinformation reported in the Globe and Mail on September 25, 2009.
Your readers should know that Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) was never contacted for comment or given the opportunity to correct misleading information that was reported in the article.
Contrary to what was reported:
- Legal Aid Ontario manages all client services with complete independence and confidentiality,
- Secondments of employees are a common practice that promote improved management practices within the broader public service,
- Legal Aid Ontario’s Protocol Case Unit ensures the independence of proceedings of non-legal aid cases where the defence is directly funded by the government, and
- The legal aid tariff and fee structure for private lawyers is the responsibility of the Ministry of the Attorney General as defined in the Legal Aid Services Act.
LAO is an arms-length, government-funded agency, mandated by an act of the legislature to deliver cost-effective and efficient legal services to low-income Ontarians. Individual client files are managed with complete independence and confidentiality. Any suggestion otherwise is utterly false.
Contrary to what was reported, LAO has had three permanent CEOs since its inception in 1999 – two of whom have been non-lawyers. Additionally, eight of ten members of LAO’s Executive Management team are lawyers.
The relationship between Legal Aid Ontario and the Ministry of the Attorney General is governed by the Legal Aid Services Act, Public Service of Ontario Act and the Agency Establishment and Accountability Directive. In accordance with the legislation, Legal Aid Ontario is required to maintain a working relationship with the Ministry of the Attorney General that includes regular communication.
As far as the appointment of LAO’s Director General of Strategic and Corporate Planning is concerned, secondments between Ministries and Agencies throughout all levels of the public sector are commonplace and are effective tools for promoting improved management practices.
The reporter neglected to report that Deloitte Consulting has been involved successfully in a number Legal Aid Ontario projects since 2002. LAO is solely responsible for selecting its contractors. LAO's decisions in this regard are based on the contractor's expertise and knowledge, and are in accordance with ensuring value for taxpayers' money.
The article also fails to note that Legal Aid Ontario’s Protocol Case Unit ensures independence of proceedings of non-legal aid cases in which the courts have ordered the Crown to fund an accused’s defence. The financial administration of these cases by Legal Aid Ontario ensures there is no government influence on the defence.
The article was also wrong about who controls the tariff. Policies concerning the legal aid tariff and fee structure for private lawyers are the responsibility of the Ministry of the Attorney General as defined by the Legal Aid Services Act. The tariff rates and fee are set out and managed by regulations developed by the Attorney General and approved by Treasury Board of Cabinet.
Due diligence in researching this story would have prevented the Globe and Mail from misinforming readers.
Chair, Legal Aid Ontario
President and CEO, Legal Aid Ontario