Call to Action # 27: Actions and Commitments

Federation of Law Societies

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is the national coordinating body of the 14 law societies mandated by provincial and territorial law to regulate Canada’s 100,000 lawyers, Quebec’s 4,600 notaries and Ontario’s 7,600 licensed paralegals in the public interest. It is a leading voice on issues of national and international importance relating to the administration of justice and the rule of the law.

June 6, 2020

Commitment to Reconciliation

Federation of Law Societies – Federation Council unanimously approves recommendations that chart path towards reconciliation. The report was released on June 6, 2020 with 9 recommendations:

Recommendation 1:

That the Federation make a formal statement of commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada as part of its framework for responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and that it share that commitment publicly.

To demonstrate this commitment, it is recommended that the Federation:

  • Adopt and implement the Guiding Principles attached as Appendix C to inform all aspects of the Federation’s work and operations.
  • Become the national hub for gathering and sharing up-to-date information about what law societies and law schools are doing in response to the TRC.
  • Explore and promote opportunities for building stronger relationships with the Indigenous Bar Association, its representatives and any other national Indigenous organizations it considers appropriate.

Recommendation 2:

That the Federation urge all law societies to make a formal commitment to reconciliation and develop a framework or steps for putting that commitment into action. Law societies may consider adopting the Guiding Principles in Appendix C, if they do not yet have a framework in place, to guide their work on reconciliation.

Recommendation 3:

That the Federation urge law societies to critically examine their regulatory processes and structures to consider how they may be more inclusive of the needs and perspectives of Indigenous peoples, as well as how they may adversely impact Indigenous peoples.

Recommendation 4:

That the Federation urge law societies to provide ongoing opportunities for competency and awareness training for law society leadership and staff.

Recommendation 5:

That the Federation urge law societies to continue to build relationships with local Indigenous organizations, the Indigenous bar, and other appropriate groups, including the legal academy, through formal and informal opportunities for collaboration.

Recommendation 6:

That the Federation urge law societies to collaborate with Indigenous organizations, members of the bar and law students to explore opportunities for providing additional supports to Indigenous students and members of the bar.

Recommendation 7:

That the Federation urge law societies to

  • Consider mandatory Indigenous cultural competency training.
  • Ensure that legal professionals in their jurisdictions are provided with access to educational opportunities to enhance their knowledge and understanding of Indigenous peoples, the legacy of colonization and the existence of Indigenous legal orders.
  • Ensure the availability of a continuum of educational opportunities and resources to recognize the diversity of legal practices and Indigenous peoples and legal orders within a given jurisdiction.
  • Collaborate with Indigenous organizations in the development and delivery of cultural competency training or rely on training already developed by such organizations.

Recommendation 8:

That the Federation urge law societies to review their admissions curriculum and licensing requirements and make necessary modifications to reflect the spirit and intent of the TRC Calls to Action.

Recommendation 9:

That the Federation not pursue an amendment to the National Requirement, focusing instead on:

  • facilitating ongoing dialogue and collaboration with the legal academy,
  • identifying effective methods for sharing information about law school initiatives and resources among law schools, and between law schools and law societies, and
  • considering other opportunities for collaboration (e.g. national conference) that may be appropriate
Guiding Principles
  1. Actively promote reconciliation
  2. Reconciliation is, among other things, a commitment to build trust. Trust encourages an open and full exchange of ideas, including disagreement, which is an essential part of any resolution or decision-making journey.
  3. Reconciliation requires genuine and ongoing dialogue, and active exploration of engagement opportunities with all relevant stakeholders. Ongoing dialogue and engagement are essential for building relationships and demonstrating inclusivity and respect for all participants.
  4. Reconciliation requires action at both the institutional and the individual levels.
  • Respect and make space for Indigenous legal orders
  1. Reconciliation requires that we acknowledge, respect and understand that Indigenous legal orders existed prior to the establishment of European systems of law in Canada.
  2. Reconciliation requires that we make space for Indigenous legal orders, processes and traditions as part of Canada’s legal landscape, and recognize how such traditions connect to, or diverge from, the common and civil law systems.
  3. A legal system that fails to recognize and make space for Indigenous legal orders and the experiences of Indigenous peoples fails to properly serve Indigenous peoples.
  4. Like all living legal traditions, Indigenous legal principles are not fixed in time; they must be understood as evolving and changing.

3. Ensure institutional transparency and accountability

  1. There are many reasons for Indigenous peoples to distrust the justice system and its participants, including lawyers and legal education providers. Any work in this area must be transparent and demonstrate that meaningful action is taking place.
  2. There must be mechanisms for ensuring the accountability of legal regulators and legal educators in:
    1. improving the knowledge and competency of legal professionals and students
    2. implementing necessary policy, procedural and/or structural changes to better reflect and serve Indigenous peoples
    3. making space for Indigenous legal orders in the practice of law
    4. demonstrating active leadership and an ongoing commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada

4. Respect diversity and jurisdictional differences

  1. Reconciliation requires respect for the diversity of Indigenous peoples, experiences, and legal orders in Canada.
  2. It is essential to recognize the unique experiences of Indigenous women, including both historical and contemporary harms caused by colonization.
  3. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action should be interpreted broadly to encourage a diversity of responses from legal and justice system stakeholders.
  4. Reconciliation activities should complement, support and encourage the variety of responses already occurring within law societies and law schools
  1. Encourage individual and systemic responsibility for reconciliation
  2. Reconciliation requires thoughtful reflection and change at both a systemic and an individual level, including reflection on how one’s own experiences, biases, and perspectives contribute to the process of colonization.
  3. Individual members of the legal profession have a responsibility to expand their knowledge and understanding of Indigenous perspectives and experiences and to take steps to ensure they are not contributing to the harms their Indigenous clients experience when engaging with the justice system.
  • View Competence through Indigenous perspectives
  1. Indigenous cultural competency requires an appreciation of the existence and intersectionality of:
  2. Indigenous worldviews, perspectives, legal systems, laws, etc.
  3. The unique legal context of Indigenous peoples in Canada
  4. The history of colonization of Indigenous peoples in Canada
  5. Systematic discrimination and unconscious bias against Indigenous peoples
  6. Racism experienced by Indigenous individuals
  7. The international legal principles that apply to Indigenous peoples in Canada
  8. Diversity amongst Indigenous populations
  9. Regionally significant information and events.
  10. The depth of knowledge and understanding required to be competent varies depending on the context. Staff and leaders of justice system organizations and all members of the legal profession require at least a general level of knowledge and understanding. Those working in certain areas, including criminal justice and child protection, require a deeper understanding and awareness.
  11. General intercultural competence training or awareness does not sufficiently address the realities, experiences and needs of Indigenous peoples. Indigenous-specific cultural competency or awareness training is required.
  12. Becoming culturally competent requires ongoing learning.

Click to access TRCAdvisoryReportJun2020.pdf

March 11, 2016

March 11, 2016

the Council of the Federation voted to establish a working group to develop recommendations on how best to effectively respond to the Calls to Action. The Council resolution included a commitment to a process that engages representatives of Indigenous peoples.

November 15, 2019

Nov 15, 2019

Commitment by incoming President Morgan Cooper, General Counsel of Memorial University in St. Johns Newfoundland to press ahead with work in response to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as they relate to the legal profession” and finalizing the Strategic Plan 2020-2023.

November 20, 2017

Nov 20, 2017

Commitment by incoming President Sheila McPherson, partner with the firm of Lawson Lundell LLP in the NWT, to advance strategic plan objectives of responding to the TRC calls to Action as they relate to the legal profession.