Public proceedings of the Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors on December 9, 2016


Board members present

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

Staff present

Mary-Ann Cocchetto, Vince Correia, Rosanne De Lio, Kristian Justesen, Jawad Kassab, Charles Lafortune, Sue McCaffrey (by teleconference), David McKillop, Stephanie Mealing, Vicki Moretti, Noreen Nathanson, Michelle Séguin, Rod Strain

1. Preliminary matters

The Chair introduced Vicki Moretti, Vice-President, Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Region. He advised that she will observe the meeting as part of a new initiative to familiarize members of senior management with Board activities. He also noted that the Vice-President, GTA Region will be presenting a report to the Board.

The Chair reported that pursuant to the stakeholder relationship enhancement initiative, representatives of the Family Lawyers’ Association (FLA) of Ontario have been invited to make a presentation at today’s meeting. He commented on the excellent briefing note provided by the FLA

2. Meeting agenda

The meeting agenda was adopted.

3. Conflict of interest

The two Board members who are Benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), declared a potential conflict with respect to the LSUC Working Group on Legal Aid.

4. Board of Directors’ meetings

4.1 Decision

Minutes of the October 20 and October 21, 2016 Board meetings were adopted.

5. Chair’s report

5.1 Verbal report

The Chair attended:

  • a conference on the Establishment and Development of the Legal Aid System in Kiev, Ukraine that dealt with issues such as correcting the problem of wide-spread corruption within the Ukrainian justice system
  • the Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA) annual conference
  • the grand opening of LAO’s new Northwest district office in Thunder Bay
  • a preliminary meeting with members of the LSUC’s Legal Aid Issues Working Group, along with other members of LAO senior management
  • a Legal Aid Test Case program roundtable on Elderly Prisoners and Access to Medical Services
  • Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) Agency and Tribunal Relations event on Strengthening Relations with Indigenous People.

5.2 Proactive disclosure of expenses

The Chair expended a total of $1,115.74 for:

  • travel expenses to Thunder Bay and return ($643.24)
  • registration for the Ninth Criminal Justice Symposium in Vancouver, BC, January 20 21, 2017 ($472.50)

5.3 Advisory Committee report and minutes for fall 2016

The Chair presented the Advisory Committee report and minutes for the eight committee meetings held in fall 2016. Some Advisory Committee members have recently resigned for various reasons. The Policy Department has consulted broadly and has identified a number of potential replacement candidates for consideration by the Board. He presented a list of suggested mid-term appointments to various Advisory Committees.

5.4 Decisions

The Board:

  • approved the recommended mid-term appointments to the Advisory Committees of the Board
  • received the Chair’s report

6. President and CEO report (continued from December 8)

6.1 LAO in the media

There were a number of articles about Legal Aid Ontario in the media and, in some cases, LAO issued corrections to incorrect information reported in the press. An article in Now Magazine about legal aid, issues that criminal lawyers are facing, and rates that lawyers charge, as well as articles about Innocence Canada outlining its financial pressures, were highlighted.

LAO is assisting in providing additional funding to both Innocence Canada and to Pro Bono Students Canada. This funding is coming from MAG, but will be flowed through LAO because of its transfer payment relationship with the two organizations.

There was a Toronto Star article on refugee pressures, and a CBC TV interview with the Director General, Northwest region, with respect to the opening of a new district office.

6.2 Alternative Fee Arrangement (AFA) summary program report

He presented the report as of the end of October, 2016. There are 177 lawyers (8% of total certificates) active in the program.

6.3 Q2 workforce report to September 20, 2016

LAO’s workforce is 72% female, as compared with 55% in the Ontario Public Service (OPS) generally.

The RVP, GTA, reported that LAO has investigated various tools to enable the corporation to gather information on diversity. There is a cost to many of these resources and a budget for this is under consideration. The Business Plan indicates that LAO intends to proceed with this baseline data collection. As part of its strategy, LAO is studying employee awareness of cultural sensitivities and broad training is available at the managerial level. Once this is operational, employees may be more inclined to confidentially or anonymously self-identify.

6.4 President and CEO performance contract mid-year results

The Board discussed the President and CEO’s performance contract mid-year results.

6.5 Provincial agency mandate letter from the Attorney General of Ontario

LAO’s Business Plan initiatives are aligned with much of its content.

6.6 Clinic service levels

The Vice-President, GTA Region, reported that:

  • clinics have reported a decrease in Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) cases and appeals, which traditionally accounted for a large percentage of their work
  • consequently, the clinics are now taking on more complex and specialized matters however, the service level data has been presented to the clinics and they have formed a working group to address these anomalies
  • in her view, social benefits tribunal volumes will come back up
  • clinics are keeping track of the new work

6.7 Update on LAO’s financial position

The Board reviewed LAO’s position and discussed additional funding for MAG's bail initiative and financial pressures, including the refugee pressure and the high demand for services.

6.8 Decision

The Board received the President and CEO’s report.

7. Committee reports

7.1 Audit and Finance Committee

7.1.1 Decision

The Board adopted the Minutes of the meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee held November 9, 2016.

8. Board reports

8.1 Corporate Service Reports

8.1.1 Budget Status report

The President and CEO reported that:

  • LAO continues to consult with both the federal and provincial governments on funding issues but the situation is still fluid
  • the possibility exists for an infusion of short-term funding from the province
  • it is difficult for LAO to make any plans without a firm commitment
  • The Vice President and CAO reported that there are still more initiatives being considered in order for LAO to meet its financial obligations

8.1.2. Decisions

The Board:

  • approved the temporary suspension of certain legal eligibility certificates
  • approved the implementation of an across-the-board compensation freeze for both LAO and the clinics, with the exception of pay equity
  • authorized LAO staff to discuss financing options with MAG
  • authorized the President and CEO to discuss financial eligibility allocations with the ACLCO

8.2 Refugee and immigration program funding

The Executive Lead, Refugee and Immigration Services—GTA presented an update and next steps for addressing the increased demand for refugee services.

8.2.1 Decision

The Board approved acceptance of the $2.5M from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and commitment to full service until February 2017.

8.3 Workplace harassment, discrimination and violence policy

The Vice-President and CAO reported that:

  • LAO wants to ensure that its employees know their rights and how to proceed with any complaints within the organization
  • the existing policy requires updating and clarification
  • LAO retained Pesce and Associates to conduct a review, and submit a report in January 2016
  • two new policies have been developed:
    • Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy
    • Workplace Violence Prevention Policy

8.3.1 Decision

The Board approved LAO’s new Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and Workplace Violence Prevention Policy.

9. Final business plan

The President and CEO reported that the final 2017/18 Business Plan is due to be delivered to MAG on or before December 31, 2016. Because of the financial decisions made at this Board meeting today, there are some amendments yet to be made.

The Acting Vice-President, Compliance and Strategic Planning presented the 2017/18 Business Plan. He reported that the note contains a request that the Board authorize the Chair and the President and CEO to approve the final version upon the insertion of the financial information, the cost-reduction strategy, and the three-year financial forecast. He highlighted some amendments:

  • minor updates to the risk section
  • updated Q2 results to the performance metrics
  • executive summary of the environmental scan

9.1 Decision

The Board approved the final draft of the 2017/18 Business Plan and authorized the Chair and the President and CEO to approve the final version with the financial framework.

10. Major case management office reports

The Acting Vice-President, Provincial Case Management Office, presented the Report on Plea Comprehension Inquiry for Criminal Staff Lawyers. He reported that:

  • LAO has over 300 staff lawyers providing service
  • this type of support demonstrates LAO’s commitment to assisting its lawyers by providing guidance and tools to ensure high quality services to LAO’s clients.

The President and CEO advised that this initiative addresses the organization’s support for its front-line staff.

The Managing Lawyer, Major Case Management Office reported that:

  • the form includes an explanation of secondary consequences
  • every section of this form is grounded in the Law Society of Upper Canada’s (LSUC) Rules of Professional Conduct, Ontario Court of Appeal cases, Section 606 of the Criminal Code and other relevant circumstances
  • consultation was undertaken widely both internally, and externally, with the private bar, practice advisory committees and the judiciary
  • the initiative was very well-received by the Advisory Committee on Criminal Law
  • the use of this form by Duty Counsel is mandatory and it will also be made available to the private bar and posted on LAO’s external website

10.1 Decision

The Board received the Plea Comprehension Inquiry for Criminal Staff Lawyers.

11. GTA regional report

The Vice-President, GTA Region presented an overview of service delivery in the region.

11.1 Decision

The Board received the overview of service delivery in the GTA region.

12. Reports for information

Test case program quarterly report

12.1 Decision

The Board received the Test case Program quarterly report.

13. Presentation to the Board by Family Lawyers’ Association

The Chair introduced Katharina Janczaruk, Jean Hyndman and Julia Berra to make an oral presentation to the Board on behalf of the Family Lawyers Association of Ontario.

14. Conclusion

The meeting adjourned.