Terms of reference of the Legal Aid Ontario Advisory Committees

Terms of Reference of the advisory committees
(Hereinafter referred to as the “Committees”)

Legal Aid Ontario
(Hereinafter referred to as the “Corporation”)


The mandate of the Advisory Committees is to provide input and advice to the LAO Board of Directors to inform the decision-making and priorities of the Corporation, including in LAO’s annual strategic and business planning process.


1. Role of the advisory committees

The role and objectives for the advisory committees are to:

  • Provide expertise and advice to the LAO Board in order to ensure that the Board is informed about environmental factors that have the potential to affect LAO’s clients and service delivery, including those that should be taken into consideration during the strategic and business planning process;
  • Review and provide input on proposed service priorities and initiatives, including those that are being considered for inclusion in the next LAO business plan;
  • Report to the Board on any other issues that affect access to justice for low-income Ontarians or inform the development of longer-term strategic and business planning.

2. Number of advisory committees

The Board Advisory Committees are:

  • Criminal Law Advisory Committee
  • Family Law Advisory Committee
  • Clinic Law Advisory Committee
  • Immigration and Refugee Law Advisory Committee
  • Mental Health Law Advisory Committee
  • Prison Law Advisory Committee
  • Aboriginal Issues Advisory Committee
  • French Language Services Advisory Committee
  • Racialized Communities Advisory Committee

3. Committee responsibilities

Each committee is responsible for providing input and advice that relates to its respective areas of law or specialization, with a client-centered focus.

4. Confidentiality

There is no expectation that the deliberations and discussions of the advisory committees, other than on specific requests identified in the LAO Business Plan and potential business plan commitments, must be kept confidential. At each meeting, the Chair will identify any items that must remain confidential and the Chair’s instructions on confidentiality will be reflected in the meeting notes.

5. Membership

5.1 Committee chair

The Chair of the LAO Board will chair each advisory committee.

The role of the Chair is to prepare committee agendas, chair committee meetings and bring the minutes of committee meetings before the Board, in addition to any other duties recommended herein.

The Chair is supported in this role by dedicated LAO Policy department staff, and other LAO staff as necessary.

5.2 Composition and size

There is no fixed number of members for each advisory committee, but membership should range between 5 to 12 and, where possible, includes the following:

  • representation reflective of Ontario’s demographically diverse population, including representation from Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities where appropriate;
  • representation reflective of LAO’s diverse client groups, as well as the most marginalized and vulnerable groups who interact with the justice system, including but not limited to persons living with a disability, women, and LGBTQ+ persons, including non-binary, two-spirit, or transgender;
  • former clients/users of LAO services;
  • one or more individuals with experience as a legal aid services provider;
  • at least one individual who has experience as a non-affiliated service provider;
  • individuals who have worked in community organizations providing services to LAO clients;
  • geographic representation from across the province;
  • member of the French speaking community;
  • an academic expert in the relevant area(s) of law, where appropriate;
  • an LAO board member.

Where possible, individuals who are not active legal aid service providers should comprise a majority of a committee’s membership.

LAO staff may be invited to meetings to provide support to the committees but may not be appointed as committee members.

5.3 Appointment and role of committee members

The LAO Chair, in consultation with the Board, has the sole authority to appoint members of each advisory committee upon consulting with the CEO. LAO may, but is not required, to solicit applications for committee membership from the public in order to ensure diverse membership in the committees as contemplated by these Terms of Reference.

Committee members are not limited to participating in a representative capacity. They are appointed as individuals and not as representatives of any particular agency or group. They should draw on their own experiences and expertise when offering advice.

The committees are intended to function as an expert panel to advise the LAO Board. The Board has the power to invite experts who are not appointed members to attend committee meetings as special guests, as needed.

5.4 Term

Each committee member will be appointed for a three-year term. Optional two-year appointments are also available. Each member should be eligible for reappointment, subject to the Board’s approval. The LAO Chair has the authority to remove committee members at his or her pleasure. In the event of a vacancy, the LAO Chair may appoint new member(s) mid-term, in accordance with these Terms of Reference.

6. Advisory committee meeting notes

Advisory committee meeting notes should proceed to the LAO Board as an informational item so as to inform the Board’s decision-making and the business planning process. Meeting notes will be circulated to the committees before they are submitted to the Board.

Following approval by the committees, the meeting notes will be posted on LAO’s public website.

7. LAO support

LAO Policy department staff will provide support to each advisory committee, including suggesting agenda items, distributing materials, drafting meeting notes, organizing meetings, and acting as a resource during advisory committee meetings. LAO staff will prepare and distribute committee materials in sufficient time to allow committee members to prepare adequately for the meetings. Other LAO staff may assist as needed.

Additional LAO staff may be invited to committee meetings to perform a supporting role, such as making a presentation or responding to questions on particular issues, but they do not participate as committee members.

If operational issues are raised at meetings, LAO staff attending the meetings will direct these issues to the appropriate staff for resolution. The resolution of operational issues is not the responsibility of the LAO Board.

8. Frequency of meetings

Advisory committees should meet in person at least twice per year, ideally in the Spring and Fall. The schedule permits their input to be considered within LAO’s business planning process. Spring meetings may inform the environmental scanning process and Fall meetings may provide input on draft business planning priorities and initiatives. Advisory committees may meet more frequently if the Chair believes that it is warranted. Additional meetings can be held by way of telephone or video conferencing.

The Chair or Policy Department staff may also solicit input from committees outside of regularly scheduled meetings if it is warranted.

9. Meeting expenses and remuneration

Committee members are to be reimbursed for their reasonable expenses in accordance with LAO policies. [Note: reimbursement of meeting expenses is suspended, in accordance with provincial direction.]

10. Effective date

These terms shall come into force on the day they are passed by the Board.