Message from the Board Chair
In 2015, The Law Foundation of Ontario had a busy and productive year grantmaking and building new partnerships. It was also a year of growth, and we made time to review what we do and why we do it.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
We undertook a strategic planning process for 2016-2020. This included candid conversations with Board and staff and many of our stakeholders.
We looked to the past to take stock of our strengths and set our strategic directions for the future. Building on our existing expertise and relationships, we reaffirmed our goals: strengthen our grantmaking; better understand the impact of our funding; have a stronger voice on access to justice; and maximize funding.
As part of our strategic planning, we renewed our vision, mission, and guiding values. We made them simpler and, we hope, more inspiring, focussing our Board and staff around a common, bigger purpose: Putting people at the heart of justice.
Our strategic planning process reminded us that we’re all driven by the same cause. We work in law because we believe in equality and justice for everyone. Whether we work in the courtroom or the community, all of us who are connected to the Foundation are inspired to put people, and their needs, at the centre of our justice system.
Our granting activity was as busy as ever. We funded $9.6 million for 77 new and ongoing projects. With the $25.2 million to Legal Aid Ontario, we invested $34.8 million in 2015 to advance access to justice.
Thanks to the influx of new cy-près awards, we re-opened our national Access to Justice Fund. We launched new calls for grant applications in the areas of: Indigenous peoples’ legal needs; children and youth; public legal education, intake and referral; racialized groups; refugees; consumers; and investor rights.
We continue to face the financial challenges of low interest rates, as our primary revenue comes from the interest earned on lawyers’ and paralegals’ mixed trust accounts. Interest rates and our ability to collect all interest on those accounts directly affects how much we can send to Legal Aid Ontario and use for grantmaking. We encourage lawyers and paralegals to be vigilant in ensuring that their financial institution is directing the interest on their mixed trust accounts to the Foundation.
This year we completed a project that will help us secure more revenue and reduce the reporting burden on the professions by streamlining the reporting of mixed trust accounts. We worked closely with the Law Society of Upper Canada to integrate the professions’ annual filing to make it a one-step process to report mixed trust account information to the Foundation. This project involved several process, technology, and communications changes for both organizations. The change took effect January 1, 2016.
We saw many changes at the Foundation this year. Our CEO since 2007 (and a Trustee from 1993 to 2002), Elizabeth Goldberg retired in 2015. Liz has been a trailblazer for women in the legal profession and leaves a strong and lasting legacy for The Law Foundation of Ontario.
We welcomed Ross Earnshaw to the Board of Trustees. Tanya Lee accepted the CEO role and worked with the Board in establishing our new strategic directions. Kirsti Mathers McHenry joined our strong and vital staff as the Foundation’s Director of Policy & Programs. The Class Proceedings Committee also saw a leadership change, with Wendy Earle replacing outgoing Chair Val Edwards. Val was highly respected and admired for her extraordinary commitment and tenacity, dedicating 15 years of service to the committee, 10 of those years as Chair.
And, a final leadership change is my own. This is my final message on behalf of the Foundation as I move to the role of Treasurer with the Law Society of Upper Canada. I’m very pleased Linda R. Rothstein has accepted the Chair role and I know I’m leaving the organization in very capable hands.
I’m inspired by the tremendous work of Foundation grantees, partners, Board, and staff, and what we accomplish together as we keep our hearts and minds on the issues, and the people, that matter most.