Meeting of Legal Aid Ontario Prison Law advisory committee on September 17, 2018

Published: September 17, 2018

1. Committee members

John McCamus (Chair), Nikki Browne, Sean Ellacott, Kathy Ferreira, Melissa Atkinson, Elizabeth Hughes, Adelina Iftene, Dave Jarvis, Lisa Kerr, Amy Lavoie, Lisa Loader, Diana Majury, Michael Mandelcorn, Allan Manson, Ryan Mason, Clara McGregor, Ann McRae, Les Morley, Paula Osmok, Kim Pate, Holly Pelvin, Howard Sapers, Saeed Selvam, Simon Wallace, James McNee (Legal Aid Ontario Board Liaison)

Guest: Abby Deshman

Legal Aid Ontario staff attending: Keith Taller, Rod Strain, Carm Runco, Simone Bern, Heather Morgan

2. Welcome and introductions

Chair John McCamus opened the meeting and welcomed those present.

3. Minutes, April 30, 2018

The minutes of the April 30, 2018, meeting were approved.

4. Legal Aid Ontario update slide deck

The Chair presented highlights of the Legal Aid Ontario Board Advisory Committees Fall 2018 Meetings: Legal Aid Ontario Updates and Business Planning slide deck.

Committee members provided the following input and advice. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of every member.

  • It could be useful for LAO to break down its criminal certificates to show, for example, how many certificates include a preliminary inquiry, and how many result in a jury trial. There is a need for more publicly available data of this kind. It would also be helpful to have data related to guilty pleas.
  • Although Bill 6 has not been proclaimed, policy and regulatory work is taking place at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services around aspects of the bill that may not require proclamation in order to proceed.
  • A new government at Queen’s Park and a federal election coming in the year ahead mean that the political environment may continue to be in flux.

5. Bail Strategy update

The update on Legal Aid Ontario’s Bail Strategy was provided by Legal Aid Ontario’s Criminal Law Policy Counsel and Bail Strategy lead.

This is an exciting time for the Bail Strategy. At Bail Strategy project sites, work is continuing and data is being collected. Bail Coordinators are working at ten courthouses, and Institutional Duty Counsel have been placed at six correctional institutions. Two Institutional Duty Counsel working at Toronto South Detention Centre now also come under the umbrella of the project.

The Institutional Duty Counsel are new, so their work has been adapting to needs. Each works with duty counsel at the courthouse to streamline the bail process. They are also providing a great deal of summary legal advice, filling gaps for clients in remand. Bail and bail preparation constitutes approximately 40% of what they do, and 55% of their work is related to providing advice. This level of demand for advice was unexpected.

In other news related to the Bail Strategy, a three‑month pilot of a new process for bail review authorizations is being introduced by Legal Aid Ontario, to decrease the length of time between a bail hearing and a bail review. Also, duty counsel bail review training is being rolled out at the end of October.

Legal Aid Ontario has made submissions to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Bill C‑75, the federal crime bill. The Legal Aid Ontario submission approves of draft provisions in the bill that support practical application of bail principles, and also recommends the bifurcated procedure for surety approval that was endorsed in R. v. Tunney, to make bail hearings faster and fairer.

A process is being implemented to streamline the in‑custody certificate application process by working with counsel who are in court and ready to assist their client with a meaningful appearance that day to obtain a same‑day assessment of client eligibility.

Committee members provided the following input and advice. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of every member.

  • The Institutional Duty Counsel are doing valuable work. It would be worthwhile to expand the program.
  • New policy related to gun crime may be announced by the Ministry of the Attorney General. The government is concerned about bail and gun crimes.
  • It was reported that the red bag program is not being implemented at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre. The reason for the delay may relate to the police.
  • There was a report of a gap in provision of Institutional Duty Counsel services to women inmates at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre.

6. Prison Law Strategy update and discussion

The update on development of the Prison Law Strategy was provided by Legal Aid Ontario’s Prison Law Strategy lead.

The draft Prison Law Strategy paper, incorporating revisions suggested by members over the summer, will be received by the Board on October 19.

Additional updates relating to strategy development were provided. Meetings have been held with law schools interested in potentially providing prison law services through their student legal aid clinics. Pro Bono Students Canada has also been contacted. Resources from Legal Aid Ontario to support these services would be required, but all are very interested and they report that students are keen to deliver the services and there is a lot that students can do.

Legal Aid Ontario is focused on providing value for money and the strategy paper indicates how the strategy’s approach and proposed initiatives represent value added and can generate savings. Many proposed initiatives build on structures that are already in place. A cautious approach is proposed, with reliance on piloting initiatives at first, so that Legal Aid Ontario can get a sense of uptake and potential cost of new initiatives. The strategy breaks down proposed initiatives into those that are higher cost with high impact and high value for money and others that are lower cost including ones that would involve working with partners or through existing services.

An overview of proposed strategy initiatives was provided. Some initiatives that were highlighted were urgent issuance criteria for certificates, a roving onsite duty counsel model, working with student legal aid clinics and legal clinics to provide services in institutions, establishing a pilot for provincial parole, and continuing to build relationships and collaborations.

While mindful of members’ time constraints, the strategy would like to follow up on the committee’s suggestion of forming subject‑matter subcommittees, on a volunteer basis, to explore and support the development of key strategy initiatives and approaches.

Committee members provided the following input and advice. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of every member.

  • The development of urgent issuance certificate criteria is very important. There is a need for thoughtful development of this initiative. An analogy can be made to the bail review authorizations initiative, which is based on a similar premise. One suggestion for effective implementation would be to establish a volunteer panel that could be contacted by phone to quickly and expertly evaluate the merits of an urgent certificate application.
  • The committee supported the proposal for providing services through student legal aid clinics. Students can provide valuable assistance, particularly at provincial institutions where one of the biggest issues is access to effective referrals. There are provincial institutions located nearby every student clinic.
  • Training for correctional officers is important. Another consideration is recruitment. There is a need to get at and combat the attitude that treatment and the level of care provided within correctional institutions are supposed to be punitive. Members indicated that some progress is occurring in the areas of recruitment and training.
  • It was suggested that some legal clinics may also be interested in assisting with provincial parole, particularly in locations that are not close to one of the law school student clinics.
  • The use of people‑centred language is supported by the committee. Rather than “prisoners’ rights”, Legal Aid Ontario may wish to speak of the retained constitutional and legal rights of persons in custody.
  • Legal Aid Ontario may wish to explore a potential collaboration with MOMS (Mothers Offering Mutual Support), which is an Ottawa‑based grassroots support group for mothers of persons who have been incarcerated. This is an active and well organized group that is participating in relevant consultations and could be helpful, particularly around the mother and child initiative.

7. Strategic Plan Update

Legal Aid Ontario’s Vice President, Strategic Planning and Compliance, provided an update on the development of the new strategic plan.

The advisory committees were invited to participate in consultations over the summer and many members attended one of the planning sessions. Legal Aid Ontario’s Board, staff, and other stakeholders were also consulted. Slides 18 and following in the slide deck identify the themes and strategic goals that have emerged from the consultation process, on a high level. The strategic goals relate to having a client‑centred focus; engaging staff; emphasizing innovative services; demonstrating value for money; and effective collaborations.

A draft strategy will soon be ready to go to the Board. However, the process is not complete. How Legal Aid Ontario will be implementing the strategic plan, in terms of meeting the goals of the plan and developing specific initiatives, will be very important. These next steps, and the key initiatives that will support the strategic plan, will be discussed with the advisory committees.

8. Other business

None raised.