Truth & Reconciliation

Addressing the challenges arising from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's findings is one of the most critical obligations facing the country and the legal system.

Photo: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Archives, British Columbia National Event, PHOT-E15-0774

Indigenous intercultural competency and lawyer competence

The Benchers have determined that Indigenous intercultural competency is necessary as part of lawyer competence, and they approved the creation of an online course that will be available to lawyers at no cost to meet this requirement.

Lawyers in BC will be required to take Indigenous intercultural competency training, which will provide lawyers with knowledge on the history of Aboriginal-Crown relations, the history and legacy of residential schools and how legislation regarding Indigenous peoples created the issues that reconciliation seeks to address.

Over the course of 2020, the Law Society will be finalizing the course. The proposed course will take six hours, to be completed at your own pace over two years. Lawyers will be able to claim CPD credit for the time taking the course.

Why is this important?

The purpose of this initiative is twofold:

  • respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, particularly call to action 27, and
  • provide lawyers with a foundation of knowledge to be ready to inform and respond to changes in laws and the legal system in an age of reconciliation

Reconciliation efforts are underway across the country and the legal profession needs to be well informed and equipped to understand and contribute to the process. Most recently, British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in Canada to act on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for governments in Canada to adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The provincial legislation has potential significance for the administration of justice and the legal profession. Also, the federal throne speech has included a pledge to to introduce similar legislation in the parliament of Canada within the first year of the government's new mandate.

To contribute to, and be ready for, changes in law that reflect Indigenous laws, their potential relevance and applicability within the Canadian legal system, lawyers need to know the context and history of those laws and our legal system.

Click here to see what community leaders to say about this initiative

Why does reconciliation matter?

For over a century, Canada's Aboriginal policy sought to eliminate the rights, governments, culture, resources, lands, languages and institutions of Indigenous people. The goal of the policy was to assimilate them into "mainstream" European culture against their will. Residential schooling became a central element in this policy. Our laws were used to make this happen.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established because former students and survivors of the residential schools came forth and placed the issue on the public agenda. The TRC report highlights how Canadian law and lawyers played an active role in forcing Indigenous children into residential schools. The intergenerational impacts of residential schools continue for Indigenous people today.

Canada’s laws and policies were created based on notions of Indigenous inferiority and European superiority, and have facilitated discrimination against Indigenous peoples. These laws resulted in disparities and inequalities between Indigenous peoples and broader Canadian society. These inequalities have led to many Indigenous peoples having a deep distrust of Canada’s legal system.

Reconciliation is about addressing these inequalities. We must work to establish and maintain a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. We need your help to get there.

How the proposal was conceived

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission published its report and calls to action more than four years ago. It called on law societies to ensure lawyers are trained in cultural competency. The Benchers unanimously agreed in 2015 to address the challenges identified by the report and created the Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee in 2016 to engage Indigenous leaders on how best to respond to the Commission's calls to action.

After extensive consultation with Indigenous communities and leaders and members of the legal profession, the committee presented the Benchers with an action plan in July 2018, including mandatory Indigenous cultural competence training for all lawyers. The Benchers unanimously approved the plan.

Creating a course on Indigenous intercultural competence and requiring lawyers to take it is the next step. The Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee and the Lawyer Education Advisory Committee presented this joint recommendation to Benchers on October 25, 2019. The Benchers approved the recommendation at their December 9, 2019 meeting.

For more information

Read the Joint Recommendation Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee and the Lawyer Education Advisory Committee on Indigenous intercultural competence education for BC lawyers.

Read background information on the Law Society's reconciliation initiatives since 2015.

For more information, contact communications@lsbc.org.