New guide now available to help the legal profession work with Indigenous Peoples

Posted: 05/24/2018

Guide for Lawyers Working with Indigenous People Event

Dianne Corbiere, Bencher; Kathleen Lickers, Chair of the Law Society of Ontario’s Indigenous Advisory Group; David Nahwegahbow, Co-editor of the Guide for Lawyers Working with Indigenous Peoples; Dorothy Peters, Traditional Teacher; Scott Robertson, President, Indigenous Bar Association; Paul Schabas, Treasurer, Law Society of Ontario; Brad Berg, Co-editor of the Guide for Lawyers Working with Indigenous Peoples; and Sonia Bjorkquist, President, The Advocates’ Society.

A new guide for lawyers working with Indigenous Peoples was unveiled at a special event in Toronto on May 22, 2018.

The Guide for Lawyers Working with Indigenous People was developed in response to the need for a deeper understanding of and more meaningful inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the legal process. The guide also addresses Action 27 of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, released in 2015, which included 94 calls to action to achieve reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Call to Action 27 was specifically directed at the legal community, calling on it to:

Ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

The guide is designed to:

  • Assist lawyers – litigation counsel in particular – as they work with Indigenous Peoples and on related issues;
  • Provide a better understanding of Indigenous Peoples, including histories, cultures, laws, including spiritual laws, and legal orders; and
  • Provide resources to lawyers to continue their education and improve their services to clients and others.

“This Guide has been written to address the calls to action and be a starting resource to help lawyers and others in the justice system learn about Indigenous cultures and understand the interplay between Indigenous legal orders and the Canadian legal system,” said Sonia Bjorkuist, President, The Advocates’ Society.

Split into three sections, the guide firstly provides a brief, historical overview of Indigenous People and cultural competency. Secondly, it provides practical tools and guidance for those within the legal professions working with Indigenous Peoples, and finally, it lists resources for more specific assistance, along with a list of further reading.

To develop the guide, The Advocates’ Society established a task force in 2016 comprising individuals with experience and interest in working with Indigenous Peoples in the legal context. For more than a year, the task force, which also benefited from the expertise and resources of the Indigenous Bar Association and the Law Society of Ontario, worked together to identify key areas of focus for learning and practical guidance.

“We want to thank all those involved in the Guide’s development and review,” said Scott Robertson, President of the Indigenous Bar Association. “The consultations undertaken on the guide with a broad cross-section of members of the bar, bench, academia, community workers and Elders, helped immensely in putting together what we hope will be a useful resource.

“I see the launch of this Guide as part of our response to the TRC Calls to Action. It provides an excellent opportunity for licensees of the Law Society to  learn more about serving our Indigenous Peoples, as it is the responsibility of lawyers to provide good, competent services to all Ontarians,” said Paul Schabas, Treasurer of the Law Society of Ontario.

A copy of the Guide for Lawyers Working with Indigenous People can be found here.