Public proceedings of the Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors on February 26, 2016

Attendance

Board members present

John McCamus (Chair), Nancy Cooper, Christa Freiler, Carol Hartman, John Liston, James McNee, Derry Millar, Tim Murphy, Michel Robillard, James Yakimovich, David Field (CEO/Ex Officio)

Staff

Jawad Kassab, Felice Lambermont, Sue McCaffrey, David McKillop, Stephanie Mealing, Cory Philipzyk-Sambrano, Marcus Pratt, Kimberly Roach, Michelle Séguin, Rod Strain

1. Meeting agenda

The meeting agenda was approved.

2. Conflict of interest

No conflict of interest was identified.

3. Board meetings

The minutes of the Board meeting held December 11, 2015, were adopted.

4. Chair’s report

4.1 Verbal update

The Chair reported as follows:

  • LAO has been invited to provide advice on implementing the Iacobucci report on Indigenous criminal injustice recommendations.
  • New Board member orientation has been completed.
  • Tony Doob, a member of LAO’s Board advisory committee on criminal law, has been made a Member of the Order of Canada. Mr. Doob, a criminologist at the University of Toronto, made a presentation at the Board’s 2015 spring retreat on the declining number of criminal cases in Ontario courts.
  • Board tours of LAO operations will continue; the Chair will provide a list of potential site visits.

4.2 Proactive disclosure of expenses

The Chair spent $540.82 on expenses associated with the eighth National Justice Symposium in Montreal and $39.54 for a memorial photo book presented to outgoing long-term Board member Aly Alibhai.

4.2.1 Decision

The Board received the Chair’s report.

5. President and CEO report

The President and CEO presented the second instalment of the President’s report to the Board. He highlighted the following:

5.1 Finance matters

At the last Audit and Finance Committee meeting, members were advised that staff had forecast an 3.7 million operating deficit—considerably lower than the previously approved annual operating budget deficit of $8 million. The difference comes from increased Law Foundation of Ontario revenue and internal administrative cost savings.

LAO is on track to issue over 100,000 certificates (20 per cent more than last year).

Finance will replace the current paper-based expense submission process with a PeopleSoft travel and expenses module. This software will enable staff to submit electronic expense reports, and managers/supervisors to approve their claims.

LAO has challenges recovering overpayments to lawyers (caused by the PeopleSoft system). LAO does not recognize the repayments as revenue until after the audit is complete and the money is received. The CEO acknowledged that disbarred lawyers rarely repay these moneys due to reasons such as mental health and addiction issues, etc., but committed to reviewing this issue with the CAO and Finance Department.

5.2 Internal matters

LAO increased its pension contribution level for employees to nine per cent (up from eight per cent). Forty‑two per cent of employees opted for the nine per cent contribution. LAO now also requires employees to increase their minimum contribution to six per cent (up from five per cent), with an option of increasing to seven, eight or nine percent.

An independent consultant has completed a review of LAO’s harassment and violence policy, processes and procedures. LAO is working to implement its recommendations to prevent violence, particularly for staff dealing with clients.

LAO is developing an information management system that can track client information throughout the organization.

5.3 Client matters

Among these:

  • LAO has begun consulting with stakeholders on the draft LAO prior counsel directive.
  • LAO’s new client app has been downloaded over 300 times.
  • LAO has agreed to pilot, and will evaluate, a second judicial pre-trial initiative in order to avoid situations where a trial collapses at the last minute.
  • LAO has held extensive public consultations on its domestic violence strategy, to learning how LAO can improve and expand its current services for clients who have experienced domestic violence. The consultation highlighted the importance of more sensitivity to this client group’s needs.
  • As part of a Justice Canada evaluation of all legal aid plans in Canada, the federal government has been given permission to interview LAO’s clients.
  • The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics at Statistics Canada will meet with LAO staff to discuss changes to their survey. LAO is the only legal aid plan in Canada that funds clinic law services, but the survey excludes clinic assists in its calculation of the total number of assists in the province. As a result, Ontario appears to have higher costs-per-assist. This inaccuracy must be corrected in future reports.

5.4 Clinics and SLASS

Staff are reviewing Provincial clinic law service expansion fund applications from 78 clinics and Student Legal Aid Services Societies. LAO has received requests totalling $14M. The fund will provide $3.3M in additional, permanent funding to expand client services in areas of unmet need.

The Regional Vice-President, Northern, Central and Eastern Regions met with the new Dean of the Law School at Lakehead University to discuss the Lakehead SLASS.

5.5 LAO initiatives

The CEO has joined MAG’s criminal justice modernization project committee.

The VP, Policy, Research and External Relations, met with Justice Judith Beaman to discuss the Hospital for Sick Children’s defunct Motherisk lab. LAO will continue to monitor this situation.

Information in the Q3 2015/16 workforce report will be incorporated into the risk and employee engagement reports.

5.6 Conferences and meetings

LAO will host the annual general meeting of the Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada (ALAP). The major themes of this year’s conference are mental health and Aboriginal issues. Budget reductions have put a number of other legal aid plans in financial difficulty.

The Chair, the Vice-President, Policy, Research and External Relations and the CEO attended the eighth National Justice Symposium in Montreal on January 22 and 23, 2016. The theme was innovation in criminal justice response to vulnerable persons, and they participated in discussions of pilot projects in mental health aspects of criminal justice.

5.7 Stakeholders

The President and CEO reported on his stakeholder engagement and noted that he recently met with:

  • Alliance for Sustainable Legal Aid (ASLA)
  • Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada (ALAP)
  • Advocates Society
  • Clinics and the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario (ACLCO)
  • Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA)
  • Ontario Bar Association (OBA)
  • Ottawa lawyers
  • the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General

5.8 Media

Recent media attention included:

  • LAO’s participation in the refugee crisis and the quality of lawyers providing refugee law services
  • the appointment of a new LAO President and CEO
  • the settlement of the Richard Wills litigation.

Copies of a letter to the editor of the Thunder Bay Chronicle describing an LAO duty counsel’s recent “remarkable court performance” at a landlord-tenant board hearing were distributed.

5.9 Decision

The Board received the President and CEO’s report.

6. Board reports

6.1 Corporate services reports

6.1.1 Business continuity report

The Director, Central Programming and Innovation described the activities and continued operationalization of best practices, and noted that a crisis management infrastructure is now included in LAO’s business continuity program.

Decision

The Board received the report.

6.1.2 2016/17 budget

The Vice-President and CAO presented the Draft budget for 2016/17 amended deficit mitigation strategy.

The Board had received a draft budget at its December 2015 meeting.

This report reconsiders the decision to achieve needed savings and provides an amended budget that allows for an $10M operating deficit for the current year, plans to eliminate the out-year deficit through internal savings, and a temporary suspension of the Law Foundation of Ontario revenue reliance reduction policy.

The President and CEO noted that many ideas are under consideration, and that the main priority is internal financial constraint.

Decision

The Board received the Draft budget for 2016/17 amended deficit mitigation strategy, subject to the proposed budget returning to the Board with further ideas for feedback on any proposed reduction strategies. The Board also approved the central ideas for reducing the impact on stakeholders and attempting to fund the deficit internally.

6.1.3 Amendments to 2016/17 business plan

The Acting Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Compliance, presented a Report on amendments to the 2016/17 business plan that includes two sets of minor amendments:

  • An amendment to more accurately reflect LAO’s financial position, clarify the reduction strategies and add Employee Engagement survey results to the organizational health indicators
  • Revisions to language relating to the unfunded tariff issue
Decision

The Board approved the revisions made to the plan subsequent to the version submitted to the Board in December 2015, and approved the further revisions to the plan.

7. Policy and External Relations Reports

7.1 Racialized Communities Justice Strategy

The Vice-President, Policy and External Relations presented a Report on the Racialized Communities Justice Strategy.

These clients are collectively over-represented in the criminal justice system, and experience higher rates of incarceration, segregation, in-prison discipline, maximum security and child protection orders.

LAO activities to date have included written submissions to the Government of Ontario on the practice of “carding” or “street checks.”

Next steps include the development of a consultation paper and interaction with stakeholders in communities to identify what service gaps LAO can fill. A formal strategy will come back to the Board for approval within a year.

Other points made:

  • LAO has had success with other justice strategies and is ready to focus its attention on this particular group of vulnerable clients.
  • Staff are developing a public profile for this strategy
  • A training program now in development will support improved services to racialized clients.

The Racialized Communities policy counsel reported that:

  • there will be an initial focus on stakeholder outreach through different agencies, clinics, academics, etc., to identify emerging themes and legal issues
  • staff are reviewing demographic information
  • ethno-specific clinics are very supportive
  • there will be common themes among the various communities as well as separate issues in different communities, particularly language issues.

The Board discussed the need to get the provincial government engaged in this initiative. Board members suggested additions to the consultation list.

7.1.1 Decision

The Board approved the launch of a Racialized Communities Justice Strategy.

7.2 Gladue transfer payment

The Vice-President, Policy and External Relations, presented a Report on Gladue report writing services agreements.

LAO’s Gladue contracts include two contracts with Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto (ALST) (which LAO seeks to consolidate into a single contract), Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation (NALSC) and Grand Council Treaty #3 (GCT#3). LAO also administers a number of Gladue report programs with the provincial and federal government.

A one-year renewal of these contracts would provide time to standardize the currently dissimilar reporting requirements of all these different programs, and reduce this administrative burden on the Gladue report writing organizations.

7.2.1 Decision

The Board approved:

  • renewal of funding to ALST, NALSC, and GCT#3 for a period of one year
  • consolidation of the two ALST Gladue expansion agreements into one
  • conducting an evaluation of publicly funded Gladue report programs in Ontario, in collaboration with MAG and DOJ, to develop a comprehensive funding strategy to streamline multiple funding agreements, close service gaps, balance stakeholder relationships, develop communication strategies to ensure full uptake of services, and increase effectiveness of Gladue reports on client outcomes.

7.3 Refugee panel standards update

The Executive Lead, Refugee and Immigration—GTA presented this update.

At present, 383 out of the 484 active panel members prior to the commencement of this project had applied to be on the updated panel, and 260 applications were approved, resulting in a smaller panel of higher quality.

This initiative is anticipated to achieve better client outcomes, reduced organizational risk (through incompetent services by former panel members) and less administrative effort and cost due to reductions in change of solicitor applications, complaints, audit and panel removals.

The supply of lawyers on the panel is sufficient to provide representation to certificate clients.

7.3.1 Decision

The Board received the Refugee panel standards update.

8. Committee reports

8.1 Audit and Finance Committee decision

The Board adopted the minutes of the meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee held January 27, 2016.

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