Meeting of the board of directors on October 19, 2018
Published: October 19, 2018
1.1 Board members present
John McCamus (Chair), Remy Boulbol, Nancy Cooper, Christa Freiler, Carol Hartman (by teleconference), James McNee, Michel Robillard, James Yakimovich, Ann Marie Yantz, David Field (CEO/Ex Officio).
Janet Budgell, Mary‑Ann Cocchetto, David McKillop, Stephanie Mealing, Vicki Moretti, Marcus Pratt, Rod Strain, Keith Taller, Moya Teklu, Jessica Wolfe.
Derry Millar, Tim Murphy.
2. Meeting agenda
The meeting agenda was adopted.
3. Conflict of interest
No conflict of interest was identified.
4. Board of directors’ meetings
4.1 Minutes of the June 26, 2018 board meeting
DECISION: The minutes of the board meeting held June 26, 2018 were adopted.
4.2 Minutes of the June 27, 2018 board meeting
DECISION: The minutes of the board meeting held June 27, 2018 were adopted.
4.3 Minutes of August 27, 2018 board meeting
DECISION: The minutes of the board meeting held August 27, 2018 were adopted.
4.4 Minutes of the September 26, 2018 meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee of the board.
DECISION: The minutes of the Audit and Finance Committee meetings held September 26, 2018, were adopted.
5. Chair’s report
5.1 Chair’s activities
- LAO hosted a delegation from Vietnam
- He attended the 25th Anniversary celebration of Innocence Canada and Annual Wrongful Conviction Day, a very impressive event at which many wrongfully convicted individuals who had been assisted by Innocence Canada were in attendance.
5.2 Board vacancies
A number of board appointments have expired and those board members affected have agreed to continue to serve until new appointments are made.
5.3 Appointment of board Chair
With respect to the board Chair’s term of office, the Chair’s Order in Council has expired. The current Chair has agreed to serve at the pleasure of the Lieutenant Governor until a replacement is appointed. The selection of the LAO board Chair is made by the Attorney General from a list of persons recommended by a committee comprised of the Attorney General, the treasurer of the LSO, and a third party agreed upon by the other two parties.
5.4 Sidney B. Linden Award
The Call for Nominations for the Sidney B. Linden Award has been widely advertised. The deadline for nominations is November 2, 2018.
5.5 Proactive Disclosure of Expenses
The Chair expended a total of $0.
DECISION: The board received the Chair’s report.
6. President’s report–Part II
LAO’s President and CEO presented Part II his CEO report, highlighting the following:
- The auditor general of Ontario’s recent value‑for‑money audit of LAO has been completed and recommendations to be included in the report have been received.
- LAO staff appeared before the Federal Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and presented submissions on Bill C‑75 (an Act to amend the Criminal Code) which aims to prohibit paralegals and students from acting in summary conviction matters.
- LAO is forecasting a $31M surplus in the current fiscal year and is proposing to allocate $20M to its Contingency Reserve Fund.
- Work is underway to develop a secure client portal where clients will be able to electronically interact with LAO, initiate applications and submit Consent and Declaration forms. LAO is also implementing an Oracle Services Cloud platform.
- The Client and Lawyer Support Centre (CLSC) call volume has decreased by 6 per cent over the previous year and queue closures have declined. Staff training is ongoing.
- Two community clinics in the Niagara region, St. Catharines and Welland, have announced their intention to amalgamate.
6.2 Litigation Report
The vice-president and general counsel presented the Litigation Report.
6.3 MPP briefings
The Chair reported that the directors general will be contacting the Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) in their regions and will arrange to meet and brief them on the services provided by LAO for the benefit of their constituents.
6.4 Auditor General’s draft value‑for‑money audit report
The vice-president, strategic planning and compliance presented a summary of the recommendations contained in the draft auditor general of Ontario’s audit report. The report contains 15 recommendations, seven of which relate directly or indirectly to community legal clinics. LAO’s response will report that many of the activities recommended by the auditor general in her report are already in progress. This response must be signed off by the President and CEO and the Deputy Attorney General by November 1, 2018.
DECISION: The board received the president’s report.
7. Board in camera session
All LAO staff members present left the meeting and the Chair and board members met in camera to privately discuss any confidential matters or other issues of concern.
8. Corporate restructuring plan
The CEO reported on the proposed plan for LAO’s corporate restructuring and presented a new organizational chart. In this update, he informed the board that there has been extensive communication about LAO’s restructuring with staff, including a number of town hall meetings, and external stakeholders. Staff feedback, including responses to a recently‑conducted Employee Engagement Survey, indicate that more clarity about areas of responsibility and overlapping duties within the regional structure is needed, a conclusion shared by those participating in the development of the Strategic Plan.
The board sought and received assurance that the direct reporting functions of the Internal Audit Unit and the Chief Audit Executive to the board would remain status quo. All vice‑presidents will be equally responsible for strategic initiatives and long‑term planning.
DECISION: The board received the report on LAO’s proposed corporate restructuring plan.
9. Strategic Planning and Compliance Reports
9.1 Strategic Plan update
The vice-president, strategic planning and compliance reported that the final version of the five‑year strategic plan, which will include a high-level overview from the board chair, will be released into the public in early 2019.
Each major initiative will be assigned to a specific vice‑president who will work with select staff to determine what deliverables can be achieved in each year. Recognizing the diverse needs of LAO’s clients, as outlined in its vulnerable client strategies, and prioritizing client service will be central features of this plan. The vice‑president, strategic planning and compliance also highlighted the following other strategic priorities:
- Providing innovative services,
- Demonstrating value‑for‑money,
- More engaged staff and effective collaboration,
- Enhanced support for clinics, including the development of new foundational documents,
- Improved service quality through effective panel management and performance measurement.
A list of completed consultations and high‑level milestones was also shared.
The vice‑president, strategic planning and compliance concluded his report by outlining next steps, including further consultation with LAO staff and clinics.
DECISION: The board received the Strategic Plan update.
9.2 Draft 2019/20 Business Plan
The vice‑president, strategic planning and compliance presented a draft of LAO’s 2019/20 Business Plan. He informed the board that the Ministry of the Attorney General will provide its requirements for business plan development to LAO shortly, with the final plan due by December 31, 2018.
DECISION: The board received the draft 2019/20 Business Plan.
9.3 Brydges Hotline Request for Proposal (RFP)
The vice-president, strategic planning and compliance presented an updated about the Brydges Hotline RFP. In accordance with LAO’s policy on Delegation of Financial Authority, board approval is required for LAO to enter into a competitive process for contracts anticipated to cost over $500,000. Board approval was requested to allow LAO to issue an RFP to contract for a third‑party to provide Brydges Hotline services as required by Section 10(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
DECISION: The board approved issuing an RFP for a contract to provide Brydges Hotline services.
10. Policy, Research and External Relations Reports
10.1 Prison Law Strategy
The vice-president, policy, research and external relations introduced Policy Counsel, Keith Taller, to provide an update about LAO’s Prison Law Strategy to the board. The Prison Law Strategy is the most recent addition to LAO’s Vulnerable Client Strategies. Board members were reminded that for many years LAO has provided prison law services through its funding of the Student Legal Aid Service Society (SLASS) Prison Law Clinic at Queens University and informed them that LAO now deems it essential that a broader and more inclusive strategy be developed to better serve the unmet needs of provincial inmates.
The report lists various initiatives included in the strategy which may be pursued in the future.
DECISION: The board received the Prison Law Strategy.
10.2 Draft Racialized Communities Strategy
The vice‑president, policy, research and external relations introduced Policy Counsel, Moya Teklu, to provide an update about LAO’s Racialized Communities Strategy to the board. She reported that, following extensive internal and external consultation, the draft strategy has been completed and recently shared confidentially with the Racialized Communities Board Advisory Committee for their feedback and observations.
The recommendations that inform this strategy seek to address:
- Engagement in system change,
- Ensure quality of legal services, and
- Reduce barriers to access.
The board was asked to approve the draft strategy so that it can be more broadly circulated for feedback prior to its being brought back to the board for final approval.
DECISION: The board approved the draft Racialized Communities Strategy.
10.3 Aboriginal Justice Strategy update
10.3.1 Review of the Aboriginal Justice Strategy
The vice-president, policy, research and external relations introduced Policy Counsel, Jessica Wolfe, to provide an update on LAO’s Aboriginal Justice Strategy (AJS). She reported that the AJS has been in existence for over ten years in response to the crisis of over‑representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice, corrections, and family law systems.
This review highlighted AJS initiatives to date, including:
- The implementation of an Indigenous self‑identification process (question) so that staff can provide respectful and culturally‑relevant services to Indigenous clients,
- Training for LAO staff and certificate lawyers to improve cultural competencies when working with Indigenous clients,
- Tailored service improvements, especially in the area of child protection, including early intervention, criminal law, Gladue Reports and Aftercare, community engagement, and public legal education,
- LAO‑funded community‑based services and programs, and
- LAO’s on‑going commitment to the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.
Staff requested that the board receive the report setting out the accomplishments of the AJS to date. The AJS Ten will come back to the board in the spring of 2019 with a proposal for the future direction of the strategy informed by the results of community engagements being held in February and March of 2019.
10.3.2 Gladue Report Writing Program funding review
The vice-president, policy, research and external relations presented the third‑party review of LAO’s funding of the Gladue Report Writing Program. He reported that Ontario is the leader in Gladue report writing and that LAO spends approximately $1.5M per year for this service, primarily through transfer payments to Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto (ALST), Nishnawbe‑Aski Legal Services (NASLC), and Grand Council Treaty 3, as well as through the regular certificate program.
Gladue Reports, although expensive and reserved for serious charges where there is a risk of lengthy incarceration, greatly help the judiciary to fulfil their Gladue obligations and provide better outcomes for Indigenous clients. A British Columbia study indicated that Gladue Reports have significantly reduced the number and length of custodial sentences of Indigenous persons. LAO is hoping to expand the Gladue process.
The Gladue Report Writing Program has not been previously evaluated, and LAO is now seeking guidance as to whether the program is working efficiently and consistently. LAO proposed a third party evaluation to examine the appropriateness of the funding mechanism and governance models and to determine if providing full access to this service to all Indigenous accused persons is possible.
DECISION: The board received the third‑party review of LAO’s funding of the Gladue Report Writing Program.
DECISION: The board approved the recommendation to commission a third party review of LAO’s Gladue Report Writing Program.
11. Senior Counsel Program Annual Report
The regional vice-president, Greater Toronto Area (GTA) presented the Senior Counsel Program’s 2017/18 Annual Report. In her report she informed the board that the program, which takes on the most complex cases and hard‑to‑serve clients and provides advanced criminal advocacy training for duty counsel and other staff lawyers, is currently experiencing a slight reduction in caseload. This may be attributable to three staff vacancies which have not been filled because of the public sector hiring freeze.
Also reviewed were the demographics of vulnerable clients served by the program, including: persons with mental health issues, Indigenous peoples, racialized clients, and women.
An external practice advisor position was created to ensure accountability to the highest standards of professionalism in complex legal and ethical issues. This position is currently occupied by the Honourable Paul Belanger.
DECISION: The board received the Senior Counsel Program’s 2017/18 Annual Report.
The meeting adjourned.