Publications & Resources
Meeting of the Board of Directors on February 3, 2012
Board Members Present:
John McCamus (Chair); Aly Alibhai; Nancy Cooper; Michelle Haigh; John Liston; James McNee; Derry Millar; Tim Murphy; James Yakimovich; Robert W. Ward, (CEO/Ex Officio)
Christopher Bennett; Lee David; Jawad Kassab; Sue McCaffrey; David McKillop; Stephanie Mealing; Vicki Moretti; Aneurin Thomas
1. Meeting Agenda
The agenda was approved
2. Conflict of Interest
No conflict of interest was identified.
3. Chair’s Report
- The Chair reported as follows:
- LAO’s Annual Reports for the years 2010 and 2011 have been forwarded to the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) but have not as yet been tabled in the legislature. Reports must remain confidential until tabled.
- Correspondence has been forwarded to the new Attorney General requesting a briefing opportunity, but to date LAO has only heard from Ministry staff requesting an opportunity for the Attorney General to attend a meeting of the LAO Board of Directors.
- The Chair reported on his participation at:
- the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Environmental Law Association clinic (CELA)
- a conference on Access to Justice at the University of Toronto
- anniversary celebrations for the clinics Advocacy Centre for Tenants – Ontario (ACTO) and Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)
- release of the Report of Civil Justice Needs Mapping Project (a joint project of Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) and Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) to analyze and map availability of legal services in Ontario)
- Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA) annual Convention (experienced amiable interaction with many criminal lawyers as well as the incoming CLA President)
- The Chair highlighted the following up-coming events:
- a follow-up Access to Justice conference at University of Toronto
- MAG Agency Chair and CEO Forum
- The Chair noted that the Executive Succession Planning agenda item not reached at the Board retreat will be specifically addressed at the June meeting of the Board of Directors. He also noted other retreat items to be rescheduled include Attracting Service Providers and Evaluating the Advisory Committee Process.
- The Chair reported on the progress of action items from the Board Retreat
- Board tours of LAO operations are ongoing and well received by Board members
- Specialists in Human Resources are developing a Board Training Assessment
- LAO’s governance policies are being catalogued for review by the Board of Directors
- A set of criteria is being developed on what are appropriate matters to bring to the Board
- Risk analysis from a retrospective perspective will be presented to the next meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee
- The Chair disclosed his corporate expenses.
- The Chair reported on his attendance at the 4th National Criminal Justice Symposium in Victoria, BC. He advised that the program focused on the the high percentage of clients in custody awaiting trial, and the disproportionate impact of this situation on mentally disabled and Aboriginal accused persons. He advised that a final report containing a list of practical suggestions is being generated, which will be distributed to the Board of Directors. A Board member suggested that the conference material and final report be shared with the Ontario Judicial Counsel for distribution to members of the judiciary.
- The Chair reported that the call for nominations is going out for the 2012 Sidney B. Linden Award. He noted that Board Member, Aly Alibhai, will continue to chair the Selection Committee and oversee the award process.
- The Chair presented the Report and Draft Meeting Minutes of the Fall 2011 Board Advisory Committees. He noted that there are a number of recurring themes, including
- overall support for reform of financial eligibility
- increased use of technology
- improved panel standards
- improved service to Aboriginal clients in the north
- support for family law initiatives
- The Chair noted that the Mental Health Advisory Committee is pleased with the discussions about possibly establishing a mechanism such as a mental health clinic to address systemic issues within the criminal justice system. He noted that inquiries are on-going about patient advocacy and the issue will be brought to the Board for consideration.
- The Board discussed the possibility of forming an Advisory Committee to deal with issues beyond substantive areas of law, e.g. Federal/Provincial relations. The discussion included a recognition that some issues, such as mental health, are relevant for all the advisory committees, and that it would be appropriate to hold cross-committee meetings on topics that affect them all.
A motion was made and carried that the Board receive the Chair’s Report, and approve the process to ensure that Board per diem payments comply with the Income Tax Act.
4. President and CEO’s Report (receive)
The President and CEO presented the second instalment of the President’s Report, and highlighted the following:
The President reported that the Paralegal Project with Humber College is moving forward. He noted that this is a positive initiative to integrate paralegal students into LAO work placements.
A motion was made and carried that the Board receive the President and CEO’s Report.
1. Minutes of Audit and Finance Committee Meetings
The Chair reported that the 2012-13 Business Plan was approved at the Audit and Finance Committee, subject to giving the Chair and the President and CEO authority to modify the language in the report, but maintain the key messages, if deemed appropriate.
Minutes of January 18, 2012 (adopt)
A motion was made and carried that the Minutes of the Audit and Finance Committee meeting held January 18, 2012 were adopted.
1. Delegation of Authority over Clinic Budgets (receive)
- The President and CEO presented the Report on Delegation of Authority over Clinic Budgets. He advised that the Auditor General’s Value-for-Money Audit Report indicated that clinic funding agreements should be entered into in a timely manner. The President recommended that in order to address timeliness requirements, and maintain consistency with the authority and accountability reflected in the regional structure, the Regional Vice- Presidents be designated as officers with authority to approve clinic funding applications.
- The President and CEO advised that the Board establishes the clinic budgets through the Business Plan, confirmed that he maintains ultimate accountability for clinic expenditures, and explained that he will continue to review clinic budgets on a regular basis with the regional Vice Presidents.
- The Board discussed the possibility of having one audit firm to serve the entire clinic system, providing opportunities for economies of scale and increased financial control.
A motion was made and carried that the Board approve the designation of Regional Vice-Presidents as officers who have authority to approve clinic funding applications.
2. The Future of Discretion (receive)
- The Director, Corporate Services Planning and Strategic Initiatives, reported that the Business Plan prescribes that discretion should comply with the Regulations. He reviewed the discretion facts and figures as well as the rationale for reviewing and realigning LAO’s current discretion practices to comply with the statutory “exceptional circumstances” criteria. He reported on the three-phase approach for discretion reform. He confirmed that the Regulation is not changing, but that LAO is seeking to clarify the administrative factors that apply.
- The Director, Corporate Services Planning and Strategic Initiatives, highlighted the consultation and Communication approach and timelines.
- The Board discussed creating a balance for areas of law where the tariff may be insufficient, i.e. mental health and Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) cases, etc.
A motion was made and carried that the Board receive the Report on the Future of Discretion.
3. Recent Legislative Initiatives in Criminal Law (receive)
- The President and CEO reported that Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, will impact the criminal justice system to a large extent through increased emphasis on incarceration.
- The Vice-President, Policy, Research and External Relations presented the Report on Recent Legislative Initiatives in Criminal Law.
- He noted that Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, is currently before the Senate and is unlikely to be amended. He advised that the main focus is greater emphasis on custody, e.g. mandatory minimum sentences, increased incarceration for young offenders, etc.
- He referred to Bill C-48, The Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act, which came into force in December 2011.
- He referred to Bill S-6, The Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act, which also came into effect in December 2011. This Bill eliminated the “faint hope” clause, such that persons convicted of first or second degree murder can no longer apply for early parole eligibility, but must now serve the full period of parole ineligibility.
· The Vice-President advised that the mandatory minimum sentences prescribed in Bill C-10 will have the most impact on LAO, as it is likely that more clients will opt to proceed to trial, having no incentive to plead guilty, or will seek more Crown pre-trials (for which a block fee is available), in the hope that the Crown Attorney will proceed on a lesser and included offence, or proceed summarily as opposed to by indictment. He noted that sentencing under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) will stress more jail time and less deterrence and rehabilitation for violent and repeat offenders. He reported that this will likely increase the volume of certificates issued pursuant to s.25 of the YCJA.
· The Board discussed the possibility of approaching MAG to request reimbursement for s.25 cases under the Protocol. The Board discussed the potential financial impact of Bill C-10 on LAO. The Board noted the potential for identifying and funding test cases as an efficient way to work with the private bar on constitutional challenges.
A motion was made and carried that the Board receive the Report on Recent Legislative Initiatives in Criminal Law.
4. Update on Bill C-11 – Balanced Refugee Reform Act and Reforming Refugee Legal Aid Services (receive)
- The President and CEO reported on the spike in the refugee certificate program. He noted the importance of controlling costs while maintaining appropriate levels of client service.
- The Vice-President, Policy, Research and External Relations reported that Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, is scheduled to come into force on June 29, 2012. He advised that the Bill will represent a significant reform in processing refugee claims and that determination of refugee claims will likely be made within months as opposed to years. He advised that LAO is designing a model to provide a mix of appropriate services and manage program costs. He reported on the proposed elimination of LAO opinion certificates. He advised that a proposed new model could encompass a range of services including a staff model, duty counsel, summary legal advice, etc. With respect to consultation, he advised that the Chair has met twice with the Immigration and Refugee Advisory Committee. As well, consultation will be scheduled with external stakeholders and LAO’s proposals will be reviewed with MAG.
- The Regional Vice-President, Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Region, highlighted the changes contemplated in the new legislation.
- The President and CEO advised that the presentation will be finalized for purposes of consultation with the private bar, to include a declaration of LAO’s intentions to address the cost issues as well as set out the implications of the new legislation.
A motion was made and carried that the Board receive the Update of Bill C-11 – Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Report on Reforming Refugee Legal Aid Services.
5. Financial Eligibility Review (receive)
- The President and CEO reported that an examination of financial eligibility was recommended in the Auditor General’s Value-for-Money Audit Report. He reported on the establishment of a study group to analyze the current financial eligibility guidelines and consider proposals for their reform.
- The Director, Strategic Research, presented the Report on Reviewing LAO Financial Eligibility. He reported on the membership of the study group, including the LAO Chair, an internal team and a group of outside experts. He highlighted the project background, objectives and outline of research issues.
- The Board discussed other funding sources such as cost awards and court-use charges.
A motion was made and carried that the Board receive the Report on LAO Financial Eligibility.
6. Strategic Planning Items
- Executive Succession Planning – tabled to a future meeting
- Alternative Funding Suggestions – tabled to a future meeting
- Board Training Needs Assessment
- The Vice-President and General Counsel presented the Report on Board Training Assessment. She highlighted a draft Board Training Survey containing a list of three main categories and a menu of eight topics for Board members to choose from.
A motion was made and carried that the Board approve the training assessment and delivery process proposed.
A motion was made and carried that the meeting adjourn.