Truth & Reconciliation

Addressing Truth and Reconciliation is one of the most critical obligations facing the legal system and the country.

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

Reconciliation matters

For more than a century, Canada's colonial policies sought to eliminate the rights, governments, culture, resources, lands, languages and institutions of Indigenous Peoples. The goal was to assimilate Indigenous Peoples into European culture against their will. Canadian law and lawyers played an active role in forcing Indigenous children into residential schools. The negative intergenerational impacts of the enforcement of these policies continues for Indigenous Peoples today.

These policies were enforced through law and based on notions of Indigenous inferiority and European superiority. The policies facilitated discrimination and resulted in disparities and inequalities between Indigenous Peoples and broader Canadian society. As a result, many Indigenous people developed a deep distrust of Canada’s legal system.

The Law Society recognizes it is a colonial institution that relies on policies and processes that are often inconsistent with Indigenous legal principles regarding dispute resolution. The Law Society also acknowledges the oppressive role that the colonial legal system has played, and continues to play, in the lives of Indigenous Peoples, and the role the Law Society plays within that legal system. Reconciliation requires building the level of trust that is necessary for Indigenous complainants and witnesses to feel safe in approaching the Law Society with concerns or complaints they may have about lawyer conduct.

In order to build trust, the Law Society is committed to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples by acting on recommendations to remove systemic barriers and to ensure that what we do — and how we do it — works for Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Framework and principles

The Law Society board approved an Indigenous Framework at its September 23, 2022 meeting. In keeping with one of the key goals of the Law Society’s Strategic Plan – to take meaningful action toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in the justice system – the Framework supports the advancement of the principles set out in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), the First Nations Justice Strategy, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. The Framework sets out six principles to guide the Law Society’s application of its governing legislation, Rules, Code of Professional Conduct, policies, procedures and practices. The principles are:

  • Principle 1: The Law Society accepts the expectation of “Nothing about us without us,” and will ensure that Indigenous individuals are engaged in the development of policy proposals or decisions that may affect Indigenous interests.
  • Principle 2: The Law Society is mandated to protect the public interest in the administration of justice, and acknowledges that Indigenous individuals are members of the public with unique histories and specific constitutional recognition.
  • Principle 3: The Law Society acknowledges that Indigenous cultures, societies, traditions, governance systems and laws continue to exist.
  • Principle 4: The Law Society regards Indigenous individuals as equal to all other people.
  • Principle 5: The Law Society respects the distinctiveness amongst Indigenous Peoples, individuals and territories.
  • Principle 6: The Law Society understands that credibility requires follow-through on its commitments, and that its commitments are ongoing.

The principles will provide an assessment tool to ensure the Law Society is meeting its existing commitments to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

On July 14, 2023, the Law Society Benchers approved the Indigenous Engagement in Regulatory Matters (IERM) report and recommendations. The objective of the report, created by the IERM Task Force, is to identify systemic barriers experienced by Indigenous complainants and witnesses, and propose solutions to establish and maintain culturally safe and trauma-informed regulatory processes. The Law Society is committed to removing these barriers and communicating regularly about the progress of implementing the recommendations, as well as continuing to engage with Indigenous stakeholders throughout the process.

Indigenous intercultural competency and lawyer competence

Acknowledging that Indigenous cultural competency is a necessary part of lawyer competence, the Law Society board approved the creation of a free, mandatory online course for practising lawyers. The course provides knowledge on the history of Indigenous-Crown relations, the history and legacy of residential schools and how legislation regarding Indigenous Peoples created the issues that reconciliation seeks to address.

The course takes approximately six hours to complete and can be done at your own pace. The course must be completed by all practising lawyers by January 1, 2024, or two years after a new lawyer begins practising or returns to practice. Lawyers will be able to claim up to six hours of CPD credit for the time taking the course.

For more information and FAQs about the course, go to Indigenous Intercultural Course.