Legal Aid Ontario’s Statement of Principles

LAO’s services promote access to justice. We provide legal aid services to eligible individuals in Ontario. We are a vital part of a strong justice system.

We are committed to our clients, our work and our important role. We have a foundational framework of values and commitments that we have built over time and which we continue to strengthen. This framework informs our work on a daily basis, and we are proud of it.

We are presenting the framework in this statement of principles as LAO transitions from its founding statute, the Legal Aid Services Act, 1998, to updated legislation, the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020. Our principles and commitments are part of our strong tradition of service and they will continue to be foundational to our work under our new statute. This transition is an opportunity for us to reaffirm and to celebrate our principles.

Applying our principles

We put clients at the centre of all we do.

We deliver client-focused services in accordance with our mandate and the principles established in LASA, 2020. We are accountable to the province of Ontario for ensuring value for money in the expenditure of public funds.

As set out in LASA, 2020, LAO’s mandate is to provide high quality legal aid services that consider the needs of clients and communities in Ontario, including Indigenous and Francophone individuals and communities. We must also be mindful of the cost of the services and our financial resources.

Our statutory principles are in s. 17(2) of LASA, 2020, which says that LAO should make continual efforts to maintain and improve the effectiveness and quality of legal aid services while ensuring value for money and that legal aid services should:

  • promote access to justice,
  • be efficient, effective and high-quality,
  • be provided in a client-focused, innovative, transparent and accountable manner,
  • be responsive to the needs of low-income individuals and disadvantaged communities in Ontario,
  • promote early resolution, where appropriate, and
  • be co-ordinated with other aspects of the justice system and with community services.

Equity and human rights

LAO strives to uphold the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion within our organization and in our client services.

As a provider of services to low income Ontarians—many of whom are Indigenous, Black, racialized, and members of other equity-seeking communities—we recognize that our clients face barriers in accessing justice because of systemic racism and other forms of discrimination, such as those faced by people with disabilities and who are 2SLGBTQIA+.

LAO works to combat these impacts by:

  • respecting and advancing the principles of equity and human rights
  • following the letter and spirit of the Ontario Human Rights Code
  • providing legal aid services through service providers who are respectful, recognize the dignity and worth of every client, and are free of bias, discrimination, harassment, and racism, including anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism
  • applying an equity analysis, including race equity, to our work
  • strengthening our organizational capacity and client service by fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace that reflects the clients and communities we serve.

LAO actions these values in a variety of ways:

  • We have implemented a client-centred approach for reducing barriers and improving service quality for our core clients, including individuals and communities who are Indigenous, Black, or racialized, and people with disabilities.

  • We are committed to working with Indigenous communities and the provincial and federal governments to advance the goals of truth and reconciliation and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, particularly those addressed to the justice community.

  • LAO’s rules and policies require service providers and staff to deliver services in a manner that is respectful, recognizes the dignity and worth of every client, and is free of bias, discrimination, harassment, and racism, including anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism.

  • We have established an equity, diversity and inclusion committee. We value the broad range of diversity in our staff, service providers, stakeholders and clients across Ontario, and are committed to building inclusion and supporting equity and a sense of belonging. Through the committee, LAO has developed a multi-year strategic plan to address barriers and move LAO closer to its vision.

LAO’s values and strategic goals

Our values are leadership, excellence, creative thinking, and respect. We lead by being a strong voice in representing our clients and promoting access to justice. We continuously work to improve what we do. We respect our clients, our service providers and all others with whom we interact.

Our strategic goals include:

  • a client-centred focus
  • value for money
  • innovative services engaged staff, and
  • effective collaboration.

We advance these goals by:

  • focusing on client-centred service delivery
  • supporting the community legal clinic system, Indigenous legal services organizations and student legal services organizations in serving legal aid clients and communities
  • listening to our clients, service providers and staff

Accessibility

We are committed to a proactive approach to accessibility in communication and customer service by developing and implementing accessibility policies and procedures in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.

Our Accessibility Policy sets out LAO’s policies and procedures to promote the core principles of dignity, independence, inclusion, integration, responsiveness and equality of opportunity for people with disabilities.

French Language Services

We are committed to meeting the needs of French-speaking clients and ensuring that legal aid services are readily available in French, in keeping with the principle of active offer and in accordance with Ontario’s French Language Services Act (FLSA).

LAO’s French Language Services (FLS) strategic plan, created as part of the overall FLS Strategic Plan for the Justice Sector in Ontario, sets out our ongoing commitments and priorities for FLS.

Service providers

LAO carries out its mandate with the dedication and commitment of its staff and its service providers, including roster lawyers who deliver legal aid services, community legal clinics, Indigenous legal services organizations, and student legal services organizations.

They share our commitment to serving low-income individuals and disadvantaged communities in Ontario. Each individual and organization plays an integral part in helping LAO to deliver on its mandate. We value their work, the important role they play, and the relationships we have with them.