Convocation approves plan to move forward on Law Society’s involvement in Ontario’s legal aid system
As part of its commitment to access to justice and support of legal aid in Ontario, Convocation approved a report from the Law Society’s Legal Aid Working Group on January 25, outlining ways to re-engage with and complement the work of Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) and other organizations.
The Law Society played a foundational role in developing Ontario’s legal aid system more than 60 years ago, and has maintained an abiding interest in this important access to justice tool.
“Going forward, as the need for legal services increases and the demand for public funding becomes more acute, it is important to help ensure legal aid remains strong,” says Law Society Working Group Chair John Callaghan. “The recommendations further the shared desire amongst the Law Society, LAO, stakeholders, the government and the public, to ensure a robust, transparent and sustainable legal aid system for the people of Ontario.”
Entitled, “An Abiding Interest,” the report contains eight recommendations:
- Work with LAO to develop a structured and ongoing process for dialogue with the LAO board and senior management about matters of mutual importance in improving access to justice in Ontario.
- Play a role with legal stakeholders and LAO to build stronger relationships and more open dialogue.
- Hold public discussions on legal aid policy issues, involving a range of stakeholders, experts and sectors, to explore innovative approaches and to discuss and address concerns and improvements for the legal aid system.
- Champion the need for robust legal aid and share the Law Society’s insights and concerns with the federal and provincial levels of government — as part of the Law Society’s government relations activities.
- Continue to facilitate and support the work of the Alliance for Sustainable Legal Aid.
- Ensure that the Law Society’s recommendations for appointments to the LAO board includes nominees who are experienced in the legal aid system, including the clinic system and the private legal bar.
- Develop a protocol for LAO board members who are recommended by the Law Society to play a role in keeping communications flowing between the two organizations — to strengthen the capacity to address legal aid issues in a way that does not conflict with the board members’ fiduciary obligations.
- Encourage the collection of data, including disaggregated demographic data, to ensure greater transparency in legal aid, and to promote more evidence-based research and policy development.
The Legal Aid Working Group was established by Treasurer Paul Schabas in November 2016 to consider the Law Society’s role and involvement in legal aid. From November 2016 to October 2017, the group met with more than 40 stakeholders from 20 organizations, including senior officials from LAO. Input from these stakeholders helped the Working Group in developing its report.
For more information, see the report.