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

The Law Society continues to work on developing a full and impactful response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action in collaboration with Indigenous people that effectively addresses the needs of Indigenous communities.

The Law Society urges lawyers to read the executive summary of the commission’s report.

When the survivors of the residential schools system for Aboriginal children courageously brought forth their experiences in several thousands of court cases, it led to the largest class action lawsuit in Canada’s history. As part of the settlement agreement, the government created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2008 “to contribute to truth, healing and reconciliation.”

The commission spent six years travelling to all parts of Canada to hear the stories of more than 6,000 witnesses, most of whom were taken from their families and placed in residential schools. The commission published its final report on June 2, 2015, which called upon all Canadians to acknowledge the wrongs of the past and included 94 recommendations for us to practise reconciliation.

Recommendations 27 and 28 speak specifically to the legal profession. The Benchers recognize that reconciliation goes beyond these two recommendations to involve a number of legal issues currently impacting Aboriginal communities, including:

  • child welfare;
  • overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody and the need for enhanced restorative justice programs;
  • the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls;
  • Aboriginal rights and title (including treaty rights);
  • the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • unresolved residential school claims;
  • and issues concerning jurisdictional responsibility for Aboriginal peoples.

The implementation of recommendations related to these issues largely depends on the engagement of lawyers.


Truth and Reconciliation Action Plan

At their July 2018 meeting, the Benchers approved a Truth and Reconciliation Action Plan, which will guide the Law Society's response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.

2018 Benchers retreat

At the 2018 retreat in Osoyoos, the Benchers learned about local Indigenous laws and traditions from Dr. Jeanette Armstrong, a Syilx First Nation leader and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Philosophy at UBC-Okanagan. TRC commissioner Dr. Marie Wilson shared her perspective on challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. The retreat concluded with a blanket exercise.

Presentation by the Honourable Murray Sinclair, chair of the TRC: In April 2016, the Honourable Murray Sinclair made a presentation to the BC Ministry of Justice – Legal Services. The video of "A Story Canada Needs to Know" was included in the Benchers retreat and can be viewed here.

Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee

The Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee provides guidance and advice to the Law Society on legal and justice issues affecting Indigenous people in the province, including those highlighted in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report and Recommendations. The following reports summarize the initiatives that are underway:

2017 Symposium

The Law Society held its first Truth and Reconciliation Symposium on November 23, 2017. Participants shared ideas on how the legal profession can address systemic biases against Indigenous people and how the Law Society can take action to facilitate reconciliation. Read details here

Video: "But I was wearing a suit"

This mini-documentary about the racism that Indigenous lawyers and law students face within the legal profession was a grassroots project of a group of Indigenous lawyers, produced with the support of the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC and the Law Society of BC. View the video here

2016 Benchers retreat

The Benchers hosted a forum at their June 2016 annual retreat where they heard from Indigenous leaders. Topics under discussion includied the commission’s recommendations, Indigenous laws, Aboriginal and treaty rights, child welfare issues and restorative justice. Read a summary of the retreat published in the Summer 2016 Benchers’ Bulletin.