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”)

1. Introduction

Section 7 of the Legal Aid Services Act, states that the LAO Board must establish advisory committees in the areas of criminal, family and clinic law. This section also gives the Board the authority to establish any other advisory committee that it considers appropriate.

2. Mandate

The mandate of the advisory committees is to provide input and advice to the LAO Board to support LAO’s annual strategic and business planning process.

3. Objectives

3.1 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 and that should be taken into consideration during the strategic and business planning processes;
  • Review and provide input on proposed service priorities and initiatives 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.

3.2 Number of advisory committees

Section 7(1) of the Legal Aid Services Act requires that the Board establish advisory committees in the areas of criminal law, family law and clinic law. In addition, the Board has established advisory committees in the areas of immigration and refugee law, mental health law, prison law, Aboriginal issues, French language services, and racialized communities.

3.3 Committee responsibilities

Each committee will be responsible for providing input and advice that relates to their respective areas of law or specialization.

3.4 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.

3.5 Membership

3.5.1 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.

3.5.2 Composition and size

There is no specific number of members for each advisory committee, but they would ideally have membership somewhere between five to 12 and, where possible, would include 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
  • a former client/user 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 the same clientele;
  • geographic representation from across the province;
  • an academic expert in the relevant area(s) of law, where appropriate;
  • a LAO board member.

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

3.5.3 Appointment and role of committee members

The LAO Chair, in consultation with the Board, has the authority to appoint members of each advisory committee upon consulting with the CEO.

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.

3.5.4 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 their discretion. In the event of a vacancy, the LAO Chair may appoint new member(s) mid‑term, in accordance with this policy.

3.6 Advisory committee reports

Advisory committee meeting notes should proceed to the LAO Board as an informational item to inform the Board’s 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.

3.7 LAO support

LAO Policy department staff will provide support to each advisory committee, including 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.

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.

3.8 Frequency of meetings

Advisory committees should meet in person at least twice per year, in the spring and fall, so that their input can be considered within LAO’s business planning process. Spring meetings will be used to inform the environmental scanning process and fall meetings will be used to seek 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.

3.9 Meeting expenses and remuneration

Committee members are to be reimbursed for their reasonable expenses in accordance with LAO policies.

10. Effective date

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