LAO update: fall 2021 edition

Published: September 29, 2022

A quarterly update on Legal Aid Ontario’s latest access to justice initiatives

Message from the CEO

The last two quarters marked new observances, such as the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, expanded services at LAO and a welcomed announcement that the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020, has been proclaimed.

As we reflect on the past several months, here are a few notable updates:

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day

September 30 marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day. LAO acknowledges, mourns and honours the precious lives that have been lost to the residential school system and the continued impacts this system has had on all Indigenous communities. Read my full statement in LAO news.

Aboriginal Justice Strategy published a new report

It is vital for us to be an effective ally to Indigenous people. After thoughtful, thorough consultation with Indigenous stakeholders, the Aboriginal Justice Strategy (AJS) published Relationships First, Business Later, Part I. The report outlines areas for improvement in the delivery of legal aid services to Indigenous clients in Ontario, and addresses key insights including:

  • mitigating barriers to accessing justice
  • Indigenous representation at LAO and in LAO’s advisory systems
  • improving legal services and supporting Indigenous justice processes
  • culturally appropriate and informed legal services

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has not yet been possible to meaningfully consult Nishnawbe‑Aski Legal Services Corporation (NALSC) and communities in Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) territory. For this reason, the AJS and LAO only released Part I of the report that is based on feedback from more than 60 Indigenous communities and organizations across the rest of the
province. Once public health conditions permit, and NALSC and communities within NAN territory extend us an invitation, consultations there will resume.

For more information, read the full story in LAO news.


LAO launches online application

As of May 17, 2021, certain clients can apply online for legal aid, and all clients can access key information such as application or certificate status.

Each year, LAO gets around 280,000 calls for everything from applying for legal aid to updating information—all of which can now be done securely online 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

LASA 2020

The Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 (LASA 2020) has now been proclaimed. The new act allows Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) the opportunity to innovate and modernize both legal aid services and how those services are delivered.

During the past year, LAO received feedback on the draft LASA 2020 rules from more than 200 individuals and organizations. LAO is grateful for the informed and thoughtful feedback and has responded with a highlight of the changes made to address that feedback.

For more information, read the full story in LAO News. LAO looks forward to continuing this important work with its partners in the justice system.

National Duty Counsel Day

The first National Duty Counsel Day was on Oct. 27, 2021, and aimed to raise awareness about duty counsel lawyers whose work ensures that everyone is equal before the law, not just those who can afford a lawyer.

LAO joined its 12 national partners in the Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada in recognizing and celebrating the indispensable contributions of duty counsel. We invited our partners to join us.

View a recording of the virtual event featuring Adrienne Clarkson, the former governor general of Canada.

Congratulations to Avvy Go on her Federal Court appointment!

LAO congratulates Avvy Go, former clinic director at Chinese and Southeast Asian Clinic (CSALC), on her appointment as a judge of the Federal Court in early August 2021.

For 30 years, and largely at CSALC, Justice Go advocated for low‑income racialized clients. She broke down barriers for public-interest litigants by appearing before all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada.

Learn more about Justice Go’s accomplishments and appointment.

Continued support during the pandemic

LAO announced its continuation of temporary services because of the pandemic. Updates included:

  • new temporary financial eligibility thresholds for domestic violence and child protection matters (for non-Indigenous applicants), in effect from May 3, 2021 to September 30, 2021.
  • continued waiver of financial eligibility requirements for Indigenous people experiencing domestic violence or facing a child protection issue until September 30, 2021.
  • continued offer of two‑hour authorizations that do not require financial eligibility testing for anyone impacted by domestic violence.

To access LAO’s report statistics, please visit our website.