LAO Update: spring 2022 edition

Published: September 29, 2022

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

Message from the CEO

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news of former Board member, Malcolm Heins’ passing.

Malcolm made significant contributions to the Board, bringing his expertise, knowledge and enthusiasm to LAO. On behalf of LAO, my thoughts and deepest condolences are with his family during these difficult times.

This sad news comes after some changes to our Board. We welcomed Steve Pengelly as the new Chair with the appointment took effect on April 14, 2022.

Steve has been a member of LAO’s board since July 2021. I would like to welcome Steve to the role of Chair and congratulate him on his appointment.

With Steve assuming this role, I would also like to thank Charles Harnick on behalf of LAO’s executive and staff for his leadership and contribution to LAO during his tenure as Chair of the Board over the past three years. In the face of considerable COVID-related challenges, Charles provided strategic leadership to the organization and played a major role steering LAO through the creation of the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 and the development of the Legal Aid Services Rules.

Over the past several months, we have continued to adapt our plans for in-person services in response to the easing of public health measures, the requirements of the courts, and the needs of our clients. In April, we resumed duty counsel services in courthouses across Ontario for LAO clients who have proceedings in person, and began the reintegration of staff in our regional offices. More recently, we have started to reopen our offices across the province and to offer a mix of remote and in-person services to our clients. We will continue to assess the safest means of assisting Ontarians in our physical workspaces as we transition.


Masks required of all visitors to Legal Aid Ontario offices

At the beginning of April, Legal Aid Ontario started transitioning back to in-person services. Until further notice, we require that anyone visiting a legal aid office, including those in courthouses across the province, wear a mask covering their nose and mouth. This requirement does not apply to individuals with a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.

While we understand the Ontario government has ended the requirement for masks in most indoor settings, LAO will continue to monitor the situation and assess the safest and most effective means of providing services to clients.

New forms available to apply for legal aid on behalf of your clients

New lawyer-assisted application forms are available on Legal Aid Ontario’s website for proceedings in the areas of child protection, family law (domestic violence), and immigration and refugee law. Applications are subject to legal and financial criteria.

These forms will help better respond to the needs of applicants, particularly those who do not speak English or French, have low literacy skills, live in communities or institutions without telephone or internet access, have mental health issues, or have difficulty travelling to offices or courts to submit a legal aid application in person.

Updated transcription rates for roster members

Legal Aid Ontario has amended the rates for billing transcription disbursements and now requires roster members to follow specific guidelines when ordering transcripts, following the introduction of updated rates for court transcription services under the Administration of Justice Act.

LAO’s Disbursements Handbook is currently being updated to reflect the changes and will be available soon. Until then, any provisions not impacted by these changes remain unchanged and will continue to be applicable.

Legal clinics get funding to support survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence

Legal Aid Ontario commends the Government of Canada for providing funding to nine community clinics for initiatives aimed at supporting survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

A first initiative, led by Justice for Children and Youth and in partnership with eight other legal clinics, will receive $6.6 million in funding over five years to provide legal education, advice, representation and holistic services to survivors including children and youth, and those who are exploited in the sex trade.

In addition, Centre Francophone du Grand Toronto will receive $1.6 million over five years to improve access to legal advice and legal representation for francophone victims and survivors by helping to train criminal and family legal professionals on the frameworks and dynamics that exist in cases of intimate partner violence.