Public proceedings of the Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors on June 24, 2016

Attendance

Board members present

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

Staff present

Vince Correia, Jawad Kassab, Sue McCaffrey, David McKillop, Stephanie Mealing, Heather Morgan, Marcus Pratt, Michelle Séguin, Rob Strain

1. Meeting agenda

The meeting agenda was adopted.

2. Disclosure of conflict of interest

No conflict of interest was identified.

3. Board of Director’s meetings

3.1 Decision

Minutes of the May 12, May 13, June 3 and June 8, 2016 Board meetings were adopted.

4. Chair’s report

4.1 Advisory committee report

The Chair:

  • presented the Advisory Committee Report and the minutes of the eight spring Advisory Committee meetings
  • reported that this Board previously approved a policy of creating public versions of the minutes of the Advisory Committee meetings for posting on LAO’s external website
  • reported that the public versions contains no personal or confidential information.
  • suggested that one set of minutes should be posted incorporating all eight Advisory Committee meeting minutes

4.3 Proactive disclosure of expenses

The Chair expended $1,109.68 for Patricia Faries` transportation from Thunder Bay and back, plus accommodation expenses, for her to present at the Board Retreat and Strategic Planning Session in May 2016.

Decision

The board received the Chair’s report

5. President and CEO’s performance contract for 2016/17

The Board discussed the President and CEO’s Performance Contract for 2016/2017.

Decision

The Board approved the 2016/17 Performance Contract for the President and CEO.

6. President and CEO report (continued from June 23)

The Board received the President and CEO’s Report.

7. Board reports

7.1 Corporate service reports

7.1.1 Audited Financial Statements for the year ended March 31, 2016

The Vice-President and CAO presented these statements, along with the Auditor General’s audit opinion letter. She reported that there were some minor changes to the earlier version of the financial statements approved by the Board at its June 8, 2016 meeting.

Decision

The Board received LAO’s Audited Financial Statements for the year ended March 31, 2016.

7.1.2 Audited Financial Statements for the Trust Fund of Legal Aid Ontario Employees’ Pension Plan for the year ended December 31, 2015

The Vice-President and CAO presented these statements. She reported that the financial statements contain a few minor grammatical changes to the earlier version approved by the Board.

Decision

The Board received LAO’s Audited Financial Statements for the Trust Fund of Legal Aid Ontario Employee’s Pension Plan for the year ended December 31, 2015.

The Vice-President and CAO reported that both sets of financial statements are unqualified. She advised that next steps include to provide copies of the financial statements to MAG to be incorporated as part of the Ontario Public Accounts.

7.1.3 Immigration and Refugee Financial Pressures

The President and CEO reported:

  • financial pressures in the area of refugee law have been increasing over a number of years
  • the federal government’s decision to remove the visa requirements for refugees from Mexico will likely result in additional pressures
  • the Executive Lead, Refugee and Immigration Services-GTA has developed a Business Case to support a request for increased funding from the federal government

The Executive Lead, Refugee and Immigration Services-GTA presented the Report on Refugee and Immigration Program Pressures, as follows:

  • Service sustainability strategies:

    • Securing additional federal funding
    • Advocating for more ‘expedite’ hearings at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). The IRB has a policy where it will expedite certain countries with no attendance required. Stakeholder groups are recommending that additional countries be added to the ‘expedite’ list.
    • Advocating for an amnesty for legacy refugee claimants (claims made before the new legislation was enacted (December, 2012).
  • He presented the possible service reduction strategies:;

    • Elimination of coverage for most pre-removal risk assessments
    • Elimination of coverage for legacy claims
    • Implementation of rigorous merit screening for Basis of Claim and Refugee Protection Division hearing coverage
    • Ceasing to issue certificates once the certificate target is reached.
    • Cost-effectiveness and efficiency strategy designed to achieve internal savings.

Board members discussed the history of the inclusion of the refugee program in the Legal Aid Service Act and noted that the cost of the program was originally shared equally between the federal and provincial governments.

The Executive Lead, Refugee and Immigration Services-GTA informed the Board that:

  • over the years, the percentage of the program cost to the provincial government has risen to about 75% and demands on the program are increasing due to federal government policy and legislation
  • without additional funding or cuts in service, access to needed legal services may be denied for many eligible refugee claimants
  • the total cost of the program at present is $21 million and the forecasted demand for 2016/17 is $30 million
  • $10.5 million is needed to cover the shortfall from the previous year and the projected demand for 2016/17
  • the Immigration and Refugee Board is hiring new Board members to address increased demands and meet legislative timelines
  • a meeting with federal government representatives has been scheduled

The President and CEO noted that LAO would need to inform and seek support from the Ministry of the Attorney General with respect any decision to cease to issue certificates and suggested that the recommendation be amended accordingly.

Decisions

The Board:

  • approved LAO’s business case for securing additional federal funding for refugee services
  • approved advocacy efforts with the Immigration and Refugee Board to increase the number of countries subject to expedite hearings
  • approved advocacy efforts with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to regularize the status (e.g. grant amnesty) of refugee “legacy” claimants
  • approved, in principle, service reduction strategies contingent on receipt of additional federal funding, including:
    • eliminating pre-removal risk assessment coverage
    • eliminating legacy claim coverage
    • informing the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) of any decision to cease to issue certificates once the certificate target is reached
    • operational strategies aimed at cost management including more rigorous merit assessment of refugee hearing applications and more rigorous financial reassessments

7.1.4 Report on amendments to Legal Aid Ontario’s financial eligibility Regulations

The Director, Central Programming and Innovation, reported:

  • the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) exclude Aboriginal land claim settlements from income tests in its assessment of Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program clients
  • staff intend to amend the draft regulatory revisions by adding the following exclusions, “Payments made pursuant to an Aboriginal Land Claims Settlement” and “Funds received pursuant to an Aboriginal Land Claims Settlement”
Decision

The Board approved the Amendments to Legal Aid Ontario’s Financial Eligibility Regulations as amended with respect to Aboriginal Land Claims Settlements.

7.1.6 New Family Law Funding Update

The Vice-President, Northern Region, Central & Eastern Region reported:

  • in 2014, the provincial government announced additional family funding in the amount of $10 million for three years, beginning in 2013/14
  • most of the initiatives funded under this program will end either September 2016 or March 2017
  • there was an over-riding requirement that the initiatives be self‑sustaining at the end of the three‑year funding period, however, some initiatives will be required to be eliminated or reduced in scope
Decision

The Board approved the approach outlined in the report relating to projects initiated through the New Family Law Funding.

8. Strategic planning and compliance reports

8.1 Draft Annual Report

The Acting Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Compliance, presented the draft Annual Report for Board approval, and authorization for the Chair, and President and CEO to approve the final layout. This included the most recent facts and figures for presentation to the Ministry of the Attorney General on or before the July 31, 2016 deadline.

He reported that:

  • the Annual Report has been scaled back this year to meet minimum requirements since it is historical in nature, as it is not traditionally made public in time to be relevant to current issues
  • other means of communication will be utilized to get LAO’s message out into the public domain, including LAO’s external website
  • the final figures will be inserted upon approval by the Board at this meeting
  • discussion and analysis by senior management has been approved by the Audit & Finance Committee

Decision

The Board approved the draft Annual Report and authorized the Board Chair and the CEO to approve the final version to be submitted to the Ministry of the Attorney General.

8.2 Outline of 2017/18 Business Plan

The Acting Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Compliance, presented a draft of the 2017/18 Business Plan, including draft Executive Summary and Environmental Scan sections.

He reported that:

  • the initiatives outlined are mainly carried over from the 2015-16 plan and the Board will be asked to receive a complete draft in October 2016 with new initiatives added including budget pressures
  • the final Business Plan is due December 31, 2016
  • LAO will align its strategic priorities with overall Government of Ontario initiatives including:
    • Fair society
    • Poverty reduction and social inclusion
    • Community hubs
    • Open, transparent, accountable government
    • Modernizing government and fiscal balance
    • Highly skilled workforce
  • over the next few months, government mandates will be closely monitored for changes and updates
  • an environmental section is included

He highlighted the section dealing with repeat clients and noted that this data will inform many of LAO’s client-centred technology initiatives. He reported that the environmental scan will be continually updated with results to the end of Q2, and with financial and other trends. He highlighted the international section, and materials relating to other legal alternative fee arrangements and pay schemes.

Decision

The Board received the draft 2017/18 Business Plan and attachments.

9. Policy, Research and External Relations reports

9.1 LAO’s Submission to the Family Legal Services Review

The Vice-President, Policy, Research and External Relations reported that:

  • Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) and the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) conducted a Family Law Services Review, including a study into the prospect of the delivery of family services by non-lawyers. The review included an extensive public consultation led by former Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, Annemarie Bonkalo.

Decision

The Board approved the Policy Report on Family Legal Services Review and the LAO Submission.

9.2 LAO’s Submission to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (CSCS)‑Strategy for a Safer Ontario

The Vice-President, Policy, Research and External Relations noted that this consultation deals with concerns about the need for oversight and accountability of police services. He reported that LAO is in the early stages of getting its own Racialized Community Strategy underway.

The Director, Policy and Strategic Research, reported that:

  • the submission does not deal with how LAO provides services, but addresses larger issues such as proposed improvements within the justice system
  • LAO can make a contribution to systemic changes consistent with the work that LAO is undertaking in its vulnerable client strategy
  • the submission touched on issues such as:
    • racial bias
    • the Special Investigation Unit (SIU)
    • problems resulting from under-policing in Aboriginal Communities and the possible use of Indigenous police forces
    • support for de-criminalizing specific offences
    • domestic violence issues
    • problems with over-charging
    • the need for serious bail reform
  • the submission will be posted on the external web site

Decision

The Board approved the Policy Report on Strategy for a Safer Ontario and the LAO submission.

10. Regional report—service delivery in the North

The Vice-President, Northern Region, Central & Eastern Region, reported on the services that are currently provided, i.e., through LAO District and Courthouse offices, Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation (NALSC), eleven poverty law clinics, and the relatively new Student Legal Aid Services Society (SLASS) at Lakehead University.

He noted that one of the SLASS’s objectives is to encourage lawyers to remain and continue to provide legal services in the north. He added that there are northern areas without any lawyers whatsoever. He reported that LAO pays a premium of 10 % Guaranteed Daily Rate (GDR), as well as costs to those lawyers who are committed to providing services in the remote northern communities where the only access is by airplane.

He reviewed LAO’s relationship and funding arrangements with Grand Council Treaty 3 and Nokiiwin Tribal Council.

Decision

The Board received the Presentation on Service Delivery in the North.

11. Committee reports

11.1 Audit and Finance Committee

Minutes of the Meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee held June 8, 2016.

Decision

The Board adopted the Minutes of the meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee held June 8, 2016.

12. Conclusion

The meeting adjourned.

^