The Federation has adopted an overarching framework to guide it on the path to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada. Laid out in a report from the Federation’s TRC Calls to Action Advisory Committee (“Advisory Committee”), the framework is rooted in the recognition of the significance of Indigenous legal orders, legal principles, and the perspectives and experiences of Indigenous peoples.
The framework encourages a broad approach to reconciliation while specifically addressing two of the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Final Report, which highlighted the need to raise awareness and competence among all legal professionals and law students in Canada as it relates to Indigenous peoples.
The nine recommendations in the Advisory Committee’s report received the unanimous support of the Council of the Federation during its June meeting. The path to reconciliation envisioned by the Advisory Committee emphasizes enhancing knowledge, sharing information, encouraging ongoing dialogue and relationship building, and promoting reflection at individual and institutional levels.
“This is a significant and very welcome step,” Federation President Morgan C. Cooper wrote in a note to law society presidents following the vote. “Much of the inspiration for these recommendations is directly attributable to the work that many of you have undertaken within your jurisdictions.”
Two of the Advisory Committee’s recommendations directly address the Federation’s work as a national organization, recognizing its unique mandate and relationship with law societies and law schools.
The first recommendation calls on the Federation to issue a statement that will include a series of principles to guide all aspects of the Federation’s work. The Advisory Committee also recommended that the Federation become the national information hub for law societies to share information and that it explore opportunities for building relationships with national Indigenous organizations.
The second recommendation called on the Federation to pursue a collaborative relationship with the legal academy, rather than amending the National Requirement to respond to the TRC Calls to Action dealing with legal education.
The remaining seven recommendations call on the Federation to urge law societies to take specific action to foster reconciliation, including:
- make a formal commitment to reconciliation and develop a framework for action;
- critically examine regulatory processes and structures to consider how they may be more inclusive of the needs and perspectives of Indigenous peoples, and how they may adversely impact them;
- provide ongoing opportunities for competency and awareness training for law society leadership and staff;
- continue building relationships with local Indigenous organizations, the Indigenous bar, and other appropriate groups, including the legal academy;
- collaborate with Indigenous organizations, members of the bar and law students to explore opportunities for providing additional support to Indigenous students and members of the bar;
- consider mandatory Indigenous cultural competency training, and ensuring access and availability to educational opportunities, and collaborating with Indigenous organizations in the development and delivery of cultural competency training;
- review bar admissions curriculum and licensing requirements and make necessary modifications to reflect the spirit and intent of the TRC Calls to Action.
The guiding principles for fostering reconciliation that have been endorsed by the Council of the Federation :
- actively promote reconciliation through a commitment to build trust through ongoing dialogue and action
- respect and make space for Indigenous legal orders
- ensure institutional transparency and accountability
- respect diversity and jurisdictional differences
- encourage individual and systemic responsibility for reconciliation
- view competence through Indigenous perspectives
The eight members of the TRC Calls to Action Advisory Committee included representatives of law societies, the legal academy and Indigenous organizations.