The Organization - Legal Aid Ontario
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is a government agency that provides high quality legal aid services, in English and French, for financially eligible low‑income Ontarians. Governed by the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 (LASA 2020), LAO has evolved over time to become a vital part of a strong justice system.
LAO operates independently from, but within a framework of accountability to, the Province of Ontario. Funding for LAO comes primarily from the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada, and the Law Foundation of Ontario (LFO) (stemming from the interest earned on lawyers’ trust fund balances).
LAO provides services in the areas of criminal law, family law, refugee and immigration law, mental health law, and clinic law (sometimes referred to as poverty law). Legal aid services include:
- Same-day courthouse services,
- Access to staff lawyers,
- Full representation through our certificate program,
- A toll-free telephone line that includes 20 minutes of free legal advice for criminal and family law matters,
- Legal information via the LAO website; and,
- Funding and support for 72 community-based legal clinics and law school-based student legal services organizations.
LAO is committed to providing high quality services that recognize the importance of diversity, access, equity, inclusion, and reconciliation. Knowing that disproportionately, many low-income Ontarians are Indigenous, Black, racialized, and members of other equity-seeking communities, LAO seeks to address barriers to justice caused by systemic racism and other forms of discrimination, such as those faced by people with disabilities and who are 2SLGBTQIA+. Read LAO’s Statement of Principles to learn more about the values and commitments that form the foundation of our organization’s work.
Several key strategies have been created to improve access to justice for particularly vulnerable client communities, such as:
- Aboriginal Justice Strategy
- Racialized Communities Strategy
- Domestic Violence Strategy
- Mental Health Strategy
- Prison Law Strategy (incarcerated clients)
- Bail Strategy (clients in custody awaiting a bail hearing or trial)
Learn more about each strategy at www.legalaid.on.ca.
LAO is creating an Indigenous Services Department (ISD) to lead, manage and support the centralization and delivery of legal aid services to Indigenous clients and communities by strengthening existing services; developing new and innovative policy initiatives and modes of service delivery, informed by deeper direct connections to Indigenous communities, service providers and clients; and, building internal and external understanding of LAO’s role and perspective in relation to legal aid services provided to Indigenous clients. The ISD will strengthen LAO’s services, programs, and supports to Indigenous clients by bringing Indigenous client services together into one department. The ISD will also lead LAO’s reconciliation initiatives, as indicated in our Statement of Principles. This department solidifies LAO’s commitment to helping the most vulnerable clients and improving upon, or creating new, wrap around supports.
While LAO has already established important building blocks for this work that have created a better understanding of Indigenous client needs, the organization is poised to take bolder steps toward positive change. An example of recent progress includes the Legal Services Agreement established between Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services (NAN Legal) and LAO. The Agreement seeks to create a strong foundation for providing the tools to deliver legal aid services in a culturally appropriate way for members of the communities. LAO and Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) have also recently entered a new service agreement with expanded services for Indigenous clients. The new Indigenous Services Department will be inspired and guided by the principles established within the NAN Legal Services Agreement and the ALS Legal Services Agreement.
The Role – Associate Vice President, Indigenous Services
The new Indigenous Services Department will be led by an Associate Vice President, Indigenous Services (AVP, IS) who will establish a central department dedicated to carrying out LAO’s mandate, and strengthening existing services, in a way that is responsive to the needs of Indigenous clients in a flexible and supportive working environment. A visionary who can inspire a team, the successful candidate for the AVP, IS role will bring a combination of strategic thinking and action-orientation to ensure an effective structure is developed to help the organization realize its vision.
This position is responsible for creating action plans within LAO’s statutory mandate and available resources for all aspects of the Department’s functions, including leading, managing, and supporting the centralization and delivery of legal aid services to Indigenous clients and communities. This also includes the hiring and managing of staff; researching and advising the Vice President Strategy and Public Affairs, and other members of the Executive team including the President and CEO, on the needs, opportunities, and challenges related to providing legal aid services to clients from Indigenous communities across Ontario; and, developing the vision, strategy, and tactics to support excellent services to Indigenous peoples.
With an understanding of LAO’s public sector context, statutory mandate, and with a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, the AVP, IS will lead, supervise, and mentor staff; establish, measure, and deliver on key performance indicators; and manage the ISD budget. The AVP, IS will ensure that services are designed and delivered in a way that is data-driven and evidence-based; financially sustainable; aligned with the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 and the Legal Aid Services Rules and Policies; and, responsive to the needs of Indigenous clients.
Engaging and communicating with a wide array of client groups and other audiences - including First Nation, Métis, and Inuit client groups and/or communities, government agencies, funders, the judiciary, etc. - the AVP, IS will join a highly motivated and ethical group that takes public accountability seriously. They are committed to excellence and innovation; creating measurable value within a fiscally constrained setting; and, influencing positive change both within LAO and within the justice system more broadly.
The AVP, IS reports to the Vice President, Strategy and Public Affairs.
The AVP, IS will be accountable to:
- Advise and report to the CEO, Executive Team, and Board on the creation and integration of the ISD and Indigenous services more broadly, including leading the full implementation into the organizational framework of LAO;
- Lead, manage, and support the delivery of legal aid services to Indigenous clients and communities;
- Translate vision and strategy into concrete action plans to deliver legal aid services that meet the legal needs of Indigenous clients and communities;
- Advise, support, and work closely with the External Relations Department to assist LAO in maintaining strong external relationships and forging new relationships with Indigenous communities, services providers, and clients; to develop effective plans, partnerships, and communications strategies; develop and execute reactive, proactive and effective outreach strategies and initiatives, including strategies and initiatives to convey LAO’s commitment to positive and sustainable relationships and supports to Indigenous communities, service providers and clients as a vital part of the justice system;
- Identify, research, and thoroughly analyze opportunities to enhance and support Indigenous communities, service providers, clients, and staff in the delivery of LAO services;
- Lead LAO’s statutory public consultations with Indigenous communities, organizations, and service providers;
- Assess performance against the Aboriginal Justice Strategy and lead its evolution, ensuring LAO’s external relationships and interactions are valuable and beneficial to Indigenous clients;
- Maintain relationships and facilitate open communication, understanding, collaboration, and support among justice partners, this includes leading and supporting initiatives with Indigenous Legal Services Organizations;
- Establish, measure, and deliver on key performance indicators in the area of Indigenous service delivery;
- Lead LAO’s external Indigenous Advisory Committee, in collaboration with the External Relations Department; and,
- Work collaboratively with other LAO departments, including the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee and department, to support the development of programming, practices, and communications within LAO that progress equity, diversity, inclusion, and reconciliation.
Required Skills & Experience
Minimum 10 years progressively responsible experience as follows:
- Demonstrated experience, knowledge, commitment to and understanding of First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities including their needs, cultures, and historical experiences within the justice system;
- Operational experience managing the delivery of direct client services to Indigenous peoples;
- Prior experience working and networking with Indigenous communities and organizations in Ontario;
- Previous experience in the public sector, the justice sector, or similar setting; Sound working knowledge of government and public sector decision-making processes and priorities;
- Exceptional written and oral communication and interpersonal skills including:
- Building trust and respect among a wide range of external and internal influencers and decision-makers;
- Ability to identify and effectively evaluate and communicate complex legal and policy issues, options and risks across diverse audiences;
- Experience presenting to and successfully engaging with a wide range of audiences, including Indigenous communities, Indigenous service providers, Indigenous clients, boards of directors, the public, and governments; and,
- Experience developing communication plans and leading discussions with Indigenous communities and service providers.
- Experience working with courts, the judiciary and different levels of government;
- Demonstrated commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, decolonization and reconciliation, and to embedding these principles within the work environment;
- Proven leadership experience and exceptional management skills to lead, motivate, inspire, mentor and develop staff;
- Sophisticated understanding of the various areas of law provided and funded by LAO, and of the needs of Indigenous clients in those areas;
- Demonstrated knowledge of LAO and legal aid services in Ontario, including:
- In-depth understanding of the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020, and accompanying Legal Aid Services Rules and Policies;
- Knowledge of LAO’s services and service delivery policies and procedures to address Indigenous client needs in the areas where LAO provides services;
- Advanced understanding and appreciation of LAO’s core client strategies to meet the needs of particularly vulnerable client communities;
- Understanding of LAO’s stakeholder environment;
- Understanding of current issues, challenges, risks and opportunities in the delivery of legal aid services, in Ontario and in other jurisdictions;
- In depth understanding of the intention and goals of the Gladue program; and, In depth understanding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action and LAO’s commitment to implement those that apply to access to justice.
- Proven experience leading the development and delivery of programs, services and plans along with demonstrated ability to organize and effectively utilize human, financial and operational resources in support of the Department’s and organizational mandate;
- Ability to prioritize and manage many initiatives simultaneously;
- Direct experience analyzing, summarizing, and reporting results for diverse audiences; and,
- Skilled at utilizing and leveraging technology for efficient operations, program delivery and reporting functions.
Legal Aid Ontario has offices throughout the province, with the head office located in downtown Toronto, and operates in a hybrid work environment. This full-time hybrid position will require some in-person presence, the frequency and location will be flexible.
Legal Aid Ontario encourages applicants who are First Nations, Inuit, or Métis descent as well as from equity seeking groups, including but not limited to persons with disabilities, women, members of racialized communities and the 2SLGBTQ+ community. We recognize the value of diversity, equity and inclusion and are committed to addressing systemic barriers and attracting and retaining diverse staff. All interested and eligible people will be considered, with due consideration to all protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The Application Process
Given recent incidents of Indigenous identity fraud, the selection process will include a variety of methods confirming candidate identity. Along with answering questions related to lived experience with Indigenous cultures and knowledges, candidates will be invited to share a combination of a status card, community references (from candidates’ home community wherever possible), and/or other references that validate a clear and authentic connection to their Indigenous heritage and to their home community and Nation, wherever possible.
An initial review of applications will occur the week of June 5, 2023. Please submit a curriculum vitae, at least 2 supporting letters that validate citizenship or membership in an Indigenous Nation, and a letter of interest which includes a description of your personal connection to the Indigenous community and how you have successfully led programs and services that included traditional knowledge and cultural teachings.
Please send applications to vancouver@LeadersInternational.com or contact Laurie Sterritt or Katy Gottfriedson-Jasper for further information:
Laurie Sterritt • Partner
Katy Gottfriedson-Jasper • Senior Consultant