LAO update: summer 2021 edition

Published: September 29, 2022

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


Message from the CEO

The pandemic has created unprecedented levels of personal and professional upheaval for many and has inevitably changed the way we work and live. The COVID-19 vaccines, first administered in Canada in December, offered us hope that a sense of normalcy was in sight as we entered the new calendar year.

Through all of this, I continue to admire the perseverance of our staff and their unwavering dedication to serving our clients in all capacities across the province.

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



Updates

Legal Aid Ontario welcomed new board members

LAO welcomed six new board members. Each board member brings a wealth of professional skill and personal experience and we are happy to benefit from their knowledge and perspectives. Learn more about our new members on our website.

New programs and enhancements

To support the professional development of private bar lawyers who take on legal aid work, we introduced enhancements to our second chair mentorship program. Beginning in March, mentees who identify as Indigenous, Black, racialized, living with a disability, women or LGBTQ+ are eligible to participate in in-firm mentorship. This pilot is in line with LAO’s racialized community strategy and the Law Society of Ontario’s and Criminal Lawyers Association’s report on the retention of women and equity-seeking communities in law and mentorship.

Also in March, LAO launched a new program that uses both private practice and LAO staff lawyers to provide legal representation to all unrepresented immigration detainees in their detention review hearings.

LASA rules

The government passed the new Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 (LASA 2020) in July giving LAO the opportunity to innovate and modernize legal aid services and service delivery models, making the system easier to navigate for clients and service providers, and able to operate more efficiently.

LASA 2020 provides that the new rules are to be posted for public feedback for 30 days. Starting April 21, 2021, these became available on LAO’s website for client, service provider, justice partner and public feedback. A summary of feedback will be compiled and published on legalaid.on.ca.

Continued expansion of services

Legal Aid Ontario has expanded many services because of the pandemic addressing the challenges of working remotely and responding to evolving needs of applicants during this time. New services included:

Consultations

In December, Legal Aid Ontario launched our tariff reform consultation where panel lawyers were invited to provide their input on new ways to pay lawyers, make it easier to access Legal Aid Online and legal aid information on our website.