Osgoode professor appointed the new chair of Legal Aid Ontario

The Ontario government has appointed York University Professor John McCamus as Chair of Legal Aid Ontario for a three-year term beginning July 5.

He succeeds Janet Leiper who is completing her three-year term as Chair and who will be joining Osgoode Hall Law School on July 9 as Visiting Professor of Public Interest Law.

Left: John McCamus

"John McCamus is a recognized expert in the area of legal aid and will make an excellent Chair," said Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant (LLB ’92). "I have no doubt that under his leadership, Legal Aid Ontario will continue to provide quality legal services to low-income Ontarians."

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2006, McCamus is also a University Professor of Law and former Dean of Osgoode Hall Law School at York. An experienced adjudicator and arbitrator, McCamus served as Chair of the Ontario Law Reform Commission from 1993 to 1996. He is currently a vice-president and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

"The appointment of Professor McCamus, who will continue to be involved with the law school on a reduced basis during this period, is reflective of his considerable knowledge and expertise in the area of publicly funded legal services and his commitment to furthering Ontario’s justice system," said Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Patrick Monahan.

"I cannot think of a better person than Professor McCamus to undertake this important work. Not only does he have a very deep understanding of how our legal aid system works, he cares passionately about access to justice," said Monahan. "He will work tirelessly and collaboratively with everyone involved to improve our legal aid system. Ontario citizens and our justice system will benefit from his leadership."

In 1996, McCamus chaired a task force that conducted an independent review of Ontario’s legal aid system, the first in its 30-year history. As a result, Legal Aid Ontario was created and it now has an annual budget of $300 million and operates certificate, duty counsel and clinic programs that provide services to more than one million low-income Ontarians each year. Earlier this year, the McGuinty government retained McCamus to update his 1997 "Blueprint for Publicly Funded Legal Aid Services".

In an announcement to the Osgoode community on Friday, Monahan said he was delighted that Leiper would be joining the law school as Visiting Professor of Public Interest Law for a two-year period.

"Janet is a passionate and compelling advocate for the public interest and access to justice. She will be working with us to advance public interest programs at the law school including assisting with the implementation of the new public interest service requirement, as set out in the Plan for the Law School 2006-2010," Monahan said.

Osgoode is the first Canadian law school to adopt such a requirement, which obliges LLB students to complete a public interest service requirement as a condition of their graduation. The requirement is designed to complement the law school’s new Ethical Lawyering in a Global Community course.

Monahan said the law school will draw on Leiper’s considerable expertise to develop several new public interest initiatives, and will also seek to strengthen current public interest initiatives such as Pro Bono Students Canada, which provides law students with unpaid placements with local agencies, organizations and community groups, and Teen Osgoode Program for Secondary Schools (TOPSS), a mentoring program that connects law students to high school students.

Leiper was called to the bar in 1987 and has more than 17 years of experience practising criminal law. From 1995 to 2001, she served as an alternate Chair of the Ontario Review Board and was its counsel from January 2003 to July 2004. She has been a member of the Nunavut Review Board since 2002 and served as its counsel in 2003-2004.