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The LCO, launched on September 7, 2007, was established by an Agreement among the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Law Society of Upper Canada, Osgoode Hall Law School and the other Ontario law school deans, for a period of five years.
II. GOALS TO BE ACHIEVED BY 2012
The LCO’s goals for its first mandate are to complete or substantially implement six major projects and six focused projects; organize (in collaboration) two to three conferences; achieve recognition for the high quality of its work; achieve recognition for its consultative process; and achieve acceptance, among a variety of constituencies, of its value to the Ontario legal system.
III. THE LCO’S MANDATE AND UNDERLYING VALUES
The LCO’s mandate is to make recommendations to improve the legal system’s relevance, effectiveness and accessibility; to clarify and simplify the law; and to consider how technology might make the legal system more accessible. It is also mandated to create critical debate about law reform and promote scholarly research. The LCO’s mission is to become a leading voice in law reform. Its values are independence; integrity; excellence; innovation; relevance; open-mindedness; transparency; diversity; inclusiveness; multi/interdisciplinarity; collaboration; pragmatism; efficiency and accountability.
IV. THE LCO’S APPROACH TO LAW REFORM
The evolution of law reform indicates that over time commissions have changed in nature. While law reform began in limited form in the fifteenth century, its modern manifestation did not occur until 1925 in the United States and 1934 in Britain. Ontario created the first law reform commission in Canada, the Ontario Law Reform Commission, in 1964, followed by other provincial commissions and a federal commission. The current LCO differs from the OLRC in not being established by government and in having complete autonomy over its research agenda. The LCO is premised on a vision of law reform as a creative yet pragmatic endeavour.
The LCO undertakes both narrowly focused and complex, socially oriented projects, engages in multi/interdisciplinary research and analysis and makes holistic recommendations. It collaborates with other bodies and consults with affected groups and the public generally. It is responsive to the need to see its recommendations translated into law, but also engages in projects that will not necessarily become part of the government’s agenda, but that may have a longer term impact in a different forum.
V. THE LCO’S PROJECTS
The LCO is open to project proposals from the public, community groups, academics and legal organizations and from individuals and groups. It accepts proposals at any time, but also issues a “call” for proposals at times when it is clear that resources will become available.
The Board of Governors approves projects, after receiving recommendations and advice from the Research Advisory Board and the Executive Director. The LCO applies a wide ranging set of criteria in determining whether it is appropriate to undertake a particular project: relevance of the proposed project to the LCO’s mandate and objectives; its impact on the law and communities; and using resources efficiently.
The LCO has released final reports in its fees for cashing government cheques and division of pensions on marital breakdown; and projects. Its current projects are the development of a coherent approach to law as it affects older persons, the development of a coherent approach to the law as it affects persons with disabilities, vulnerable employees and precarious work and joint and several liability in the commercial context. It has engaged in a lengthy consultation process to develop a project in family law. The OHLS LCO Scholar in Residence, Professor Janet Walker, is undertaking a project in cross-border litigation.
The staff lawyer and Executive Director develop a plan for each project, including timelines, resources required, methods of consultation and list of interested groups, taking into account previous work in the area. The knowledge required for each project and consideration of the relevance of technology for each project are factors in determining the nature of the research required. Narrowly focused projects usually result only in a consultation paper distributed for feedback and a final report, while complex projects will also involve discussion papers and an interim report, also distributed for feedback, prior to the release of the final report. Complex projects, in particular, involve multi/interdisciplinary and critical analysis and holistic recommendations.
VI. THE LCO AS A RESPONSIVE ORGANIZATION
The Board of Governors is required to submit a budget and projected expenditures to the partners. The LCO is required to report annually to the partners, but the Executive Director has also developed communication plans that include formal and informal means of communication, including in person communication. The release of the Annual Report will provide an opportunity to bring together the funding partners, the Board of Governors and the Research Advisory Board.
The LCO is committed to public consultation and communication in person, through its website, via a newsletter and blog and through its discussion papers and draft and final reports. It promotes participation in conferences and other public events, attendance at events held by partners and other interested organizations and media coverage of its work.
VII. MEASURING SUCCESS
Measures of success include translation of recommendations into legislation; reference to research, analysis and recommendations by courts, academics and other bodies interested in law reform; quality of work produced; adoption of recommendations or frameworks by other jurisdictions; contribution to or leading dialogue on law reform; collaboration with others; number of proposals submitted to the LCO; extent the LCO is known; and extent to which it meets its own values and satisfies its own identified processes. The LCO will be externally evaluated beginning early in 2010.
VIII. ANNUAL OBJECTIVES AND ACTIVITIES
A. For 2008
The LCO’s objectives for 2008 were to complete its appointment of personnel, two narrowly focused projects and the pre-study for the older adults project; to begin research on the older adults project; organize, likely in collaboration with a law school partner, a conference on law reform, prepare communication plans; and implement its website and newsletter.
Added 2009: The LCO achieved these objectives in 2008, with a symposium scheduled for May 2009, and in addition, developed other policies related to its research processes, engaged in a major consultation (a Roundtable) to assist in developing a family law project and developed a rolling budget to April 30, 2012. The Board of Governors approved a project in vulnerable workers and precarious work in June 2009. The OHLS LCO Scholar in Residence began a project related to cross border litigation in association with the LCO.
B. For 2009
The LCO’s objectives for 2009 include the release of consultation papers in the older adults, persons with disabilities, vulnerable workers, cross border litigation and joint and several liability projects; the holding of a law reform symposium in May; the release of three issues of the newsletter; preparation and release of the Annual Report to cover the period from 2006 to April 30, 2009; development of a new, more interactive website; development of new methods of consultation; and enhanced financial reporting.
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