The purpose of this policy is to establish a clear, comprehensive and equitable framework for consultations between LAO and community legal clinics.
This policy recognises that LAO and the community legal clinic system must work together effectively to analyse and develop solutions to clinic issues. This policy further recognises that shared problem solving leads to decisions and policies that are fair, credible, practical, and effective.
The policy attempts to balance LAO’s legitimate interest in efficient, timely administration with the clinic system’s legitimate interest in participating in decisions that significantly affect it.
The policy does not establish a single process for all clinic consultations – it acknowledges that the form and process of clinic consultation must be tailored to meet specific circumstances and issues. As a result, the policy establishes a general framework for clinic consultations and expectations as to when and how they will be conducted.
In this policy,
"the Act" means the Legal Aid Services Act, 1998, and includes the regulations under the Act
"the ACLCO" means the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario;
"ACLCO representatives" includes the Executive Director of the ACLCO;
"clinic" means an independent community organisation structured as a corporation without share capital that provides clinic law services to the community it serves on a basis other than fee for service, and includes the board of directors of that clinic;
"Clinic Committee" means the committee of the LAO Board of Directors established under section 8 of the Act;
"clinic law services" means legal and other services provided under the Act, in clinic law areas, and includes legal representation and advice, community development and organising, law reform, and public legal education;
"Clinic Law Advisory Committee" means the committee of the LAO Board of Directors established under section 7 of the Act;
"Legal Aid Ontario" or "LAO" or "corporation" means Legal Aid Ontario established under the Legal Aid Services Act, 1998 and includes the Board of Directors of LAO;
"LAO staff" means the staff of LAO, or their designates, authorised to exercise the rights and perform the duties of LAO under the Act or the Memorandum of Understanding;
"Memorandum of Understanding" means the Memorandum of Understanding between LAO and the Clinic, and includes all of the documents appended to the Memorandum of Understanding;
"policies" means the policies, priorities and operational standards issued by LAO that affect community legal clinics.
This policy has been written in accordance with the following principles:
LAO and the community legal clinic system share responsibility for effective consultations.
Consultations should be designed to give interested participants fair notice of the issues being considered at the earliest stage possible.
Consultations should be designed to give interested participants an opportunity to contribute to decision-making at the earliest stage possible before decisions are finalized. In general, consultation plans must provide sufficient time for the board of directors of a Clinic to participate.
The form and process of consultations must be tailored to meet specific circumstances and issues.
This policy supplements, but does not replace, the normal day-to-day communications between LAO and individual clinics, groups of clinics, the ACLCO, or the clinic system.
This policy supplements, but does not replace, LAO’s consultations with its Clinic Law Advisory Committee.
Nothing in this policy precludes a clinic from making its own submissions on an issue, regardless of the form of consultation that has been chosen.
LAO staff shall meet with ACLCO representatives at least once every two months, or at some other interval as may be agreed between them, to discuss ongoing or emerging issues, to provide regular updates on LAO initiatives, and to seek the ACLCO’s input on clinic law issues and/or operations generally.
The President/Chief Executive Officer of LAO shall attend the meetings between LAO staff and the ACLCO representatives at least three times a year, or at some other interval as may be agreed between them.
These meetings supplement, but do not replace, any other consultations that may be required as a result of this policy.
LAO commits to consult with the clinic system, groups of clinics or representatives of the clinic system, on issues which significantly affect clinics or the clinic system, in accordance with this policy in the following circumstances:
Adoption or amendment of the Memorandum of Understanding, including any documents that are appended to that Memorandum of Understanding;
Adoption or amendment of other LAO policies applicable to clinics, which significantly affect clinics or the clinic system;
Initiatives that could significantly affect the entire clinic system, including significant changes to existing LAO-provided or funded services or the introduction of new LAO-provided or funded services;
Initiatives that could significantly affect groups of clinics that share an interest in an issue; and
Other LAO initiatives that could significantly affect the clinic system, including LAO's annual business planning and/or multi-year strategic planning processes.
LAO may consult on other issues or in other circumstances or at the request of a clinic, a group of clinics, or the ACLCO, at its discretion.
In addition, LAO may also consult with other stakeholders or interested parties on clinic system issues, at its discretion.
Consultation may take many forms, including:
Distribution of an LAO discussion paper to the clinic system with a request for submissions on the issue;
Regional meetings with clinics;
Meetings with an LAO advisory committee;
Meetings with ACLCO representatives;
Meetings with inter-clinic provincial working groups.
Some issues or circumstances may require an extended consultation involving more than one of the forms of consultation described above, or may include other forms of consultation.
Where LAO considers it appropriate to create an advisory committee in order to consult, the committee shall, at a minimum:
have a mandate or terms of reference document which outlines the purpose for which the committee was created;
have a membership that is selected by the clinic system;
have a membership which is as reflective of the different staff and board roles within the clinic system, as is possible;
have a membership which is as reflective of the regional diversity of the clinic system, as is possible;
circulate the minutes of each of its meetings to the clinic system.
LAO will consult with the ACLCO and/or with a relevant clinic group or advisory committee prior to any proposed consultation in order to develop a consultation plan that is appropriate for the particular circumstances.
The consultation plan should include the following information:
who the consultation leads or facilitators are;
who is anticipated to participate in the consultation;
what form or forms the consultation is expected to take;
what the timeframe for the consultation is; and
an outline of the issues being consulted upon.
LAO staff may lead or facilitate a consultation or LAO may seek the assistance of the ACLCO or any other relevant clinic group or advisory committee to lead or facilitate consultations on specific issues.
LAO will give the ACLCO or other relevant clinic group or advisory committee a reasonable opportunity to canvass its members to determine the level of interest in an issue, to seek views on consultation strategies and participants, and to recommend timeframes.
Where LAO seeks the assistance of the ACLCO or other relevant clinic group or advisory committee to lead or facilitate a consultation, both LAO and the ACLCO or other relevant clinic group or advisory committee are expected to abide by the principles and spirit of this policy.
LAO will report the results of a consultation to the clinic system.
LAO will also advise the clinic system of its decisions/reasons regarding the issue consulted upon.
There may be urgent or exceptional issues where LAO is precluded or prohibited from pursuing any form of consultation. In these circumstances, and where possible, LAO will advise the clinic system of the issue, the reasons that it was urgent or exceptional and the decisions/reasons regarding the issue, as soon as it is able to do so.