Board of directors meeting December 7, 2018
Published: December 7, 2018
1.1 Board members present
John McCamus (Chair), Remy Boulbol (by teleconference), Nancy Cooper, Christa Freiler, James McNee, Derry Millar, Tim Murphy (by teleconference), Michel Robillard, James Yakimovich, Ann Marie Yantz, David Field (CEO/ex officio)
Janet Budgell, Mary‑Ann Cocchetto, David McKillop, Stephanie Mealing, Heather Morgan, Kathleen Murphy (by teleconference), Aileen Page, Rob Strain, Jessica Wolfe
2. Meeting agenda
The meeting agenda was adopted.
3. Disclosure of conflict of interest
No disclosure of conflict of interest was identified.
4. Minutes of board of directors meetings
- Minutes of October 18, 2018 board meeting
- Minutes of October 19, 2018 board meeting
- Minutes of November 8, 2018 board meeting
DECISION: Board meeting minutes from October 18, October 19 and November 8, 2018 adopted
5. Chair’s report
The chair reported he attended the following events:
- Law Foundation of Ontario’s annual award ceremony where the Guthrie Award was presented to Mary Birdsell, executive director of Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY), one of LAO’s specialty clinics
- Annual Criminal Lawyers Association of Ontario convention
- Swearing-in ceremony of the Hon. Alison Harvison Young, appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal
- Celebration for regional vice‑president Vicki Moretti, in honour of her upcoming retirement
Board members whose orders‑in‑council have expired received correspondence from the attorney general saying their service to LAO has been much appreciated, and they would continue to serve until new appointments are made.
Collective agreement ratification with the Society of United Professionals (SUP)
The associate general counsel and vice‑president and CAO reported that in November, after 14 months of negotiations, LAO and SUP signed a memorandum of understanding for settlement of the first collective agreement. The union held a one‑week online vote and on December 4, 2018, SUP informed LAO that the agreement was ratified by 95% in favour.
The agreement lasts four years, April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2022. Lawyers’ compensation will be based on the year they were called to the bar. Semiannual increases of 1.8% per year will be awarded during the term of the agreement. It is hoped salary and benefits will facilitate LAO’s lawyer recruitment process. Additional benefits include modifying the vacation policy and increasing incidental illness allowances, as well as new mental health benefits.
The board of directors thanked the bargaining team, including the associate general counsel, as well as the director of human resources and her team.
The board discussed options for the orientation of potential new members. The vice‑president and general counsel previously invited suggestions from board members. The chair noted that a financial training program for board members is being created. The board noted the advisory committee process is extremely beneficial for gaining insight into LAO’s core business.
DECISION: Board received report and draft minutes of the fall 2018 advisory committee meetings
DECISION: Board received chair’s report
6. President’s midterm performance report
The president and CEO presented the president and CEO performance contract midyear results, highlighting:
- Recent launch of Justice pas‑á‑pas, the French-language version of the Steps‑to‑Justice website. This is a collaborative initiative involving Ontario justice partners led by Community Legal Education Clinic (CLEO)
- Parkdale Community Legal Services (PCLS) to be shortly evicted from current location and requested LAO provide sufficient financial support to lease at a new location. Negotiations ongoing.
- Client portal launch this week allowing clients to interact electronically with LAO and access services online. The portal enjoyed a fairly fast uptake: 1,500 clients signed up in the first week.
- President and chair met with Law Society of Ontario treasurer to discuss quality assurance provisions under the Legal Aid Services Act (LASA) and other matters of common interest.
- Town hall meetings with staff to discuss corporate reorganization recently conducted via Skype. Staff provided helpful feedback.
- Board discussed “compassion fatigue” or vicarious trauma staff may experience when exposed to clients’ traumatic situations. Many staff are exposed to a high degree of stress. Compassion fatigue training for frontline staff is being provided through HR.
- Client satisfaction survey finalized and being conducted online with clients, on a rotating basis, every three months. Participation has differed by area of practice with greatest response from refugee clients, and lowest from criminal law clients. The majority of comments dealt with difficulty in retaining legal representation. LAO has tools for clients to identify lawyers on LAO panels, however, is precluded by LASA to direct a client to a particular lawyer. Nonetheless, LAO is looking at more user‑friendly methods to facilitate clients’ access to panel members, including online lawyer lists. In the client satisfaction survey, clients were asked if they have been victims of domestic violence. 40 percent said they had. More research will be done on this issue.
DECISION: Board received president’s midterm performance report
7. Audit and finance committee meeting
- Minutes of the November 7, 2018 meeting
DECISION: Minutes of the November 7, 2108 audit and finance committee meeting adopted
8. Political environmental scan
The vice‑president, strategic planning and compliance presented Report on Ontario’s political landscape—an environmental scan. He reported that the provincial government has provided information on its priorities, including a commitment to client‑centred services at reduced cost. LAO’s mandate to provide high‑quality, efficient and cost‑effective client service supports this. Initiatives that support these objectives will be presented to the board at future meetings.
DECISION: Board received, for information, Report on Ontario’s political landscape—an environmental scan
9. Policy on board approval for public submissions by LAO
The vice-president, policy, research and external affairs presented a report on a policy for board approval for public submissions by LAO. He reported that as a recognized leader in the promotion of access to justice, LAO is often called upon to provide input into consultation processes on various policy and legislative initiatives. The board discussed options for establishing a framework with respect to the process for its consideration, and approval of public statements made by LAO. LAO staff will prepare a revised set of guidelines, criteria, policy framework and options for further discussion with the board.
DECISION: Board deferred decision on its approval of public submissions to a future meeting
10. Indigenous cultural awareness training
The vice-president, policy, research and external relations presented the Report on Indigenous cultural awareness training and introduced Jessica Wolfe, Indigenous policy counsel. He reported that staff are recommending Indigenous cultural awareness training (Bimickaway) for LAO board members and senior management. Staff believe this would be beneficial to those called upon to make strategic decisions that impact LAO’s Aboriginal clients. Indigenous policy counsel reported that the Indigenous jail population continues to increase at a rapid rate and that the percentage of Aboriginal children in child protection is very high. It has been almost 10 years since LAO senior management has had Indigenous cultural training. Participants in the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Bimickaway training program say sessions have had a profound impact. There are a total of five training modules. Staff recommend the board participate in all five modules over an extended period to accommodate their meeting schedule. No cost is associated with the program. With the prospect of upcoming appointments of several new members, the board agreed that, if possible, the training be scheduled at a time when there is a full board complement.
DECISION: Board approved Indigenous cultural awareness training (Bimickaway) for board and senior management in early 2019
11. Strategic planning and compliance reports
11.1 Final LAO strategic plan
The vice-president, strategic planning and compliance presented report on LAO’s five‑year strategic plan. He reported that the plan now includes a specific section on diversity. The draft strategic plan has been distributed to stakeholders and staff and reflects LAO’s commitment to its vulnerable client strategies and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action. Next steps include communicating the final, board‑approved strategic plan to stakeholders and staff early in the new year. Elements of the strategic plan will be incorporated into LAO’s business plan.
DECISION: Board approved LAO’s five‑year strategic plan
11.2 2018‑19 financial eligibility investment for specialty and ethnolinguistic communities
The vice-president, strategic planning and compliance presented report on 2018/19 financial eligibility investment for specialty and ethnolinguistic clinics. He reported that these clinics were recently provided with new criteria for funding requests. Staff recommend 17 requests meeting the criteria be approved for funding from the $1.05 million available.
DECISION: Board approved $1.05 million in financial eligibility funding to individual specialty and ethnolinguistic clinics
12. 2019‑22 business plan
The vice-president, strategic planning and compliance reported:
The board, at its last meeting, authorized the chair and president and CEO to approve the final version of LAO’s business plan. The vice‑president highlighted amendments made to the plan since that meeting:
- Updated strategic goals
- Alignment with strategic plan
- Updated risks and information in the inclusion and diversity section
- Three‑year financial plan
The chair recommended submitting the business plan on December 31, 2018. A board member requested that the board be made aware of further amendments to the plan prior to its submission to MAG.
DECISION: Board approved 2019‑2022 LAO business plan and authorized chair and CEO to approve final version to be submitted to MAG
12.1 Office of the Auditor General of Ontario’s 2018 audit of LAO
The vice-President, strategic planning and compliance presented the report on the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario’s 2018 audit of LAO. He reported that the audit report contains 15 recommendations specific to LAO. An executive lead will be assigned to each recommendation and an ongoing LAO internal audit performed to document progress to satisfy recommendations as well as LAO’s responses.
DECISION: Board updated on Office of the Auditor General of Ontario’s 2018 audit of LAO
13. Request for authorization to disclose information under LASA s.90 (2)
The vice-president and general counsel presented the report on the delegation of corporate authority to disclose information under s.90(2) of the Legal Aid Services Act 1998 (LASA). She reported that under s.90 of LASA, LAO staff are precluded from disclosing information, unless authorized by the board under s.90(2).
Senior counsel, litigation reviewed typical circumstances where it may be in LAO’s interest to disclose information otherwise subject to the prohibition against disclosure. These include when there is litigation against LAO, when ensuring accurate media coverage related to LAO, and circumstances involving LAO’s legal or reputational interests. Many of these situations are time-sensitive-authorization of LAO’s president and CEO as an ex officio board member to disclose information, rather than that of the entire board, allows for an efficient and expeditious process.
DECISION: Board approved delegation of corporate authority to disclose information under s. 90(2) of the Legal Aid Services Act to LAO’s president and CEO
14. Motion to adjourn
DECISION: Meeting adjourned