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Independence, Engagement, Impact
The Law Commission of Ontario makes laws, policies and programs more accessible for all Ontarians. Our reports make recommendations:
- to make the legal system more relevant, accessible or effective;
- to simplify or clarify the law; and
- about using technology to improve access to justice.
Our mandate and priorities for 2017-2020 are in our strategic plan.
Who We Are
The Law Commission of Ontario is Ontario’s leading law reform agency. Since its inception in 2008, the LCO has completed 16 major projects and consulted with thousands of Ontarians on important law reform issues. We’ve completed projects on a broad range of legal issues, including class actions, the law of capacity, joint and several liability, the Provincial Offences Act, division of pensions, RDSPs, family law, and laws governing older adults and disabled Ontarians.
The LCO is a unique, innovative and productive partnership that was originally created by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Law Society of Ontario, Osgoode Hall Law School and the Law Deans of Ontario.
We are funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Law Society of Ontario, Osgoode Hall Law School, and York University. The LCO also receives significant in kind support from Osgoode Hall Law School and York University.
The LCO provides independent, balanced, and authoritative advice on some of Ontario’s most complex and far-reaching legal policy issues. We evaluate laws impartially, transparently and broadly. The LCO is independent of stakeholder interests and is committed to a “public interest” perspective for every project.
Our reports include principled, practical, “problem-solving” recommendations that are informed by broad consultations and tested through a transparent and comprehensive process that engages a broad range of individuals, experts, and institutions.
The LCO is located at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, Canada.
The LCO is Ontario’s second-generation law reform agency. Our predecessor, the Ontario Law Reform Commission (OLRC), was established in 1964. It was the first law reform agency in Canada and reported to the Attorney General of Ontario. Between 1964 and 1996, the OLRC issued almost 100 reports and study papers on topics as diverse as charities, jury trials, land law, AIDS testing, child welfare, personal property security, privacy, the Landlord and Tenant Act, and enforcement of judgements.
In the mid-2000s, justice leaders in Ontario recognized the need to for a renewed law reform agency in Ontario. Shortly thereafter, the LCO was established by an agreement between Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Law Society of Ontario, Osgoode Hall Law School and the Law Deans of Ontario.
Today, there are law commissions in six Canadian provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan) with the development of a seventh commission underway (Quebec). There are over 60 independent law commissions operating world-wide.
What We Do
The LCO provides independent, evidence-based, and forward-looking advice on some of Ontario’s most complex and controversial legal policy issues. The LCO’s analysis of provincial laws, policies, programs, and practice is rigorous, multidisciplinary, and based on extensive consultations with the persons and institutions most affected by them. As a result, our reports are an authoritative, long-term resource for policy-makers, stakeholders, academics, and the general public.
The LCO’s reports have led to legislative, regulatory and policy amendments. They are cited in judicial decisions, policy reports, academic articles, and media stories for many years. They also make significant contributions to public legal education and public debates on important and topical law reform issues.
Many institutions, organizations and individuals rely on the LCO’s work, including:
- Government decision-makers at the provincial, national, and municipal levels;
- Legal system professionals, including the judiciary, legal organizations, and lawyers;
- Regulators such as the Law Society of Ontario, regulated health professions, and others;
- Private and public institutions involved with legal issues or the justice system, such as hospitals and financial institutions;
- Community groups, agencies, community legal clinics, and individuals working in project-related areas;
- Academics and experts working in LCO project-related areas,
- Law schools; and,
- The general public.
By definition, LCO reports break new ground in law reform. Our Defamation in the Internet Age project, for example, is the first project of its kind in Canada. Other projects, such as our Class Actions and Legal Capacity projects, are the first comprehensive reviews of important Ontario statutes in more than 20 years.
In the last five years alone, the LCO has initiated or completed nine major projects and has circulated more than 30 final reports, interim reports, discussion papers or commissioned papers. Major projects during this period include:
- Digital Rights
- Class Actions
- Defamation in the Internet Age
- Last Stages of Life
- Indigenous Engagement for the Last Stages of Life
- Legal Capacity, Decision-making and Guardianship
- Simplified Procedures for Small Estates
- Capacity and Legal Representation for the Federal RDSP
The LCO also supports law reform, policy making and critical debate through conferences, forums, events, and roundtables. Recent examples include:
- Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights Panel at York Univeristy’s 2020 Inclusion Day;
- Forum on Automated Decision-Making in the Civil and Administrative Justice System;
- Law Society of Ontario’s Access to Justice Week Data and Design Symposium
- CIAJ 2019 National Conference;
- AI for Lawyers: A Primer on AI in Ontario’s Justice System
- An international conference on defamation;
- LCO/Mozilla Roundtable on Digital Rights and Digital Society;
- A panel on internet intermediary liability at RightsCon 2018.
Governance, Strategy and Leadership
The LCO was established by an Agreement between our funders and supporters. Our mandate and priorities for 2017-2020 are in our strategic plan. We are funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Law Society of Ontario, Osgoode Hall Law School, and York University. The LCO also receives significant in kind support from Osgoode Hall Law School and York University.
The LCO’s resources are multiplied through its proven ability to develop partnerships, engage communities, and leverage pro bono contributions from across Ontario. The LCO leverages significant pro bono resources through its volunteer project advisory groups. During our second mandate (2011-2016), the Commission relied on 11 Advisory Groups with almost 180 members. One Advisory Group met more than 30 times over the course of several years. The LCO collaborates with literally dozens of organizations across the province every year. For example, the LCO partnered with almost 20 organizations during its Last Stages of Life project. Finally, the LCO leverages its resources through external funding and in-kind contributions from other organizations, such as SSHRC.
The LCO has a small, dedicated staff who are experts in legal and public policy research, law reform, access to justice, consultation and stakeholder engagement, and contemporary public policy development. Our work is guided by a Board of Governors that includes a broad cross-section of leaders within Ontario’s justice community. Past and current board members include Deputy Attorney Generals, law deans, judges from the Ontario Court of Appeal, and leading lawyers and academics from across Ontario. The LCO board is uniquely positioned to influence the development of law reform in Ontario.
Current Board Members
- Raj Anand — Law Society of Ontario Representative
- Professor Linda Cardinal – Member At-Large
- Mary Condon – Osgoode Hall Law School Representative
- The Honourable J. Michal Fairburn – Judicial Representative
- The Honourable Stephen T. Goudge — Law Foundation of Ontario Representative
- Irwin Glasberg – Ministry of the Attorney General Representative
- Elizabeth Grace – Member At-Large
- Dean Jula Hughes – Ontario Law Deans Representative
- Sonia Ouellet – Member At-Large
- Andrew Pinto (LCO Chair) – Member At-Large
- Michael Tamblyn – Member At-Large
- Nye Thomas (LCO Executive Director) – Ex Officio Member
Past Board Chairs
- Patrick J. Monahan, 2007 – 2009
- Larry Banack, 2009 – 2013
- Bruce Elman, 2013 – 2018
- Andrew Pinto, 2018 – 2020
Past Board Members
Mark L. Berlin (2012 – 2018)
William Flanagan (2009)
Mark Leach (2012)
Public Engagement and Public Legal Education
The LCO is a national and international leader in public engagement on law reform issues. Since its inception, the LCO has engaged with thousands of Ontarians on law reform projects, including governments, legal professions, justice organizations, community organizations, academics, and the general public. The LCO consults with stakeholders provincially, nationally, and internationally.
The LCO promotes public engagement through:
- Project consultation papers, interim and final reports;
- Commissioned research papers;
- In person stakeholder meetings, workshops, symposia, and public forums;
- Dedicated, easy to access project and issue sheet/backgrounders;
- Online webinars and public surveys;
- Dedicated, broad-based Advisory Groups;
- Speaking engagements, articles, guest lectures at law schools and other faculties;
- Social media strategies;
- A newsletter circulated to interested individuals and organizations.
Public consultation is fundamental to the LCO’s approach to law reform. To that end, the LCO is committed to involving stakeholders and the public in its projects.
The LCO’s consultation methods are flexible and evolving. The different types of projects that we undertake mean that a wide range of stakeholder communities are affected by our work, including government, the legal profession, academics (both in law and other disciplines), advocacy and community organizations, service providers, business and commercial interests, and the general public, among others. Whenever the LCO undertakes a new project, a consultation approach and plan is developed specifically for that project.
Depending on the nature of the project at issue, consultation may take place through written submissions, individual interviews, online or teleconference meetings, focus groups and roundtables, surveys and questionnaires, public fora or other methods as appropriate.
The LCO is committed to accessible consultation and to designing consultation processes that include all parts of Ontario society, regardless of gender, disability, age, citizenship, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other factors that may lead to marginalization and exclusion. The LCO also respects the privacy and confidentiality of individual information gathered through the consultation process, subject to the requirements of law.
The LCO’s website has become the hub for LCO consultations and public education.