Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 27: Justice (25-42)

Federation of Law Societies of Canada

February 19, 2024

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is the national association of the 14 law societies mandated by the provinces and territories to regulate Canada’s legal profession in the public interest. It is the body through which Canada’s law societies collaborate at the national level, share information on trends and issues affecting the legal profession, and engage in collective action and decision-making. The Federation is also the law societies’ national and international voice on important issues related to the regulation and core values of the legal profession

Individual law societies are directly responsible for the training required of lawyers and Quebec notaries in Canada. However, as the national association, the Federation saw importance in identifying how it too could be responsive to the Calls to Action, either in collaboration with law society initiatives or as part of its own mandate. 

Federation of Law Societies of Canada Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

In 2015, the Federation brought together legal regulators from across Canada during its annual conference to discuss the TRC’s report. In 2017, the Federation established its Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action Advisory Committee (“the committee”) to provide recommendations to Federation Council (its governing board) on how to respond to the Calls to Action. The committee interpreted the overall goals of the Calls to Action broadly, focussing on all the Calls, not just on the education and training of legal professionals. In June 2020, the committee delivered its final recommendations to Federation Council along with Guiding Principles intended to inform all aspects of the Federation’s work. These recommendations and principles were unanimously approved by the Federation Council. Some recommendations were targeted at what the Federation should do nationally, while others urged specific action to be taken by law societies (in light of their regulatory roles and mandates). 

In December 2020, the Federation adopted a formal statement of commitment to reconciliation, which reflects the advice of the committee. It states:

Importance of Truth and Reconciliation 

The Federation acknowledges the historical and ongoing impacts of colonization and residential schools on Indigenous peoples across Canada. In particular, we recognize and understand that the traumas and inequities stemming from Canada’s history continue to contribute to Indigenous peoples’ experiences with the law and the legal system. 

We also acknowledge that First Nations, Metis and Inuit people had their own systems of law and justice prior to the implantation of common and civil law in Canada. The Indigenous legal orders and traditions stemming from those systems continue to exist today and are important threads in Canada’s legal fabric. 

Our Commitment 

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is committed to the broad goals of truth and reconciliation advocated by the TRC. We are also committed to supporting the efforts of law societies and law schools to enhance the knowledge and competency of future and existing legal professionals across Canada. The Federation will build upon, and complement, these efforts in ways that are in keeping with its mandate and responsibilities as the national coordinator of Canada’s law societies. 

How we will demonstrate our Commitment 

In support of our commitment, the Federation will: 

  1. Ensure all aspects of our work are informed by our Guiding Principles and reflect our commitment to reconciliation. 
  2. Become the National Information Hub for law societies and law schools to share resources and information about their initiatives in response to the TRC. 
  3. Identify opportunities for relationship-building and collaboration including with national Indigenous organizations. 
  4. Urge all law societies to adopt a broad interpretation of, and approach to, reconciliation when developing regulatory initiatives. 
  5. Collaborate with, and support, law schools and the legal academy.

Relationship with the Legal Academy 

As part of its recommendations, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action Advisory Committee considered the parallel Call to Action 28, which calls upon the legal academy to ensure law students receive appropriate substantive and skills-based training. Given the continuum of legal education that exists between law school and legal practice, the committee recommended greater collaboration between law societies and law schools to help both groups achieve their respective goals. In 2021, the Federation formed a working group with the Council of Canadian Law Deans to share best practices and information about truth and reconciliation initiatives happening at law schools and law societies across the country. This collaboration is ongoing. 

Current Federation Initiatives

  • Since 2020, the Federation has been actively reflecting on its commitment and identifying national initiatives to advance its role in fostering truth and reconciliation. In 2022, the Federation established an Indigenous Advisory Council (“IAC”) to advise the Federation on all proposed and existing initiatives in furtherance of its commitment. It may also provide recommendations to Federation Council for initiatives that fall within its mandate. The members of the IAC include lawyers, legal academics, law students and members of the public from different First Nation, Metis and Inuit communities across the country. 
  • The Federation is completing a comprehensive review of the National Requirement (the standard that specifies the knowledge and skills graduates of Canadian common law programs and internationally trained lawyers and law graduates must acquire to be admitted to bar admission programs in the Canadian common law jurisdictions. It also applies to applications for new Canadian common law degree programs). The National Requirement is subject to review at least every 5 years. Part of the current review is aimed at addressing Call to Action 28, which law schools have been integrating into their programs since 2015.  The committee responsible for this review engaged in extensive consultations with Indigenous individuals and organizations in 2023. In June 2023 it released a Discussion Paper proposing a number of changes to the National Requirement. Law societies, Indigenous groups and individuals, and other interested parties were invited to provide feedback on the proposals, which included a number intended to address Call to Action 28. The deadline for comments was December 4, 2023. A change to the National Requirement would apply to all common law law programs across the country as well as the assessment of internationally trained legal professionals by the National Committee on Accreditation.
  • The Federation’s Standing Committee on the Model Code of Professional Conduct released a Consultation Report in November 2023 seeking feedback on proposed amendments to address Call to Action 27. The proposals were developed after extensive engagement with Indigenous individuals, Indigenous legal scholars and law society Indigenous Advisory committees. The deadline for comments on the proposals is May 31, 2024. 

Law Society Responses to Call to Action 27

Individual law societies are actively working to respond to the TRC’s Calls to Action. The types of initiatives taking place across the country are diverse in nature, and tailored to each jurisdiction’s unique context. Some of this information can be found on individual law society websites. Examples of the approaches being taken include:

  • Most, if not all, law societies have established their own internal Indigenous advisory committees to guide their response to the Calls to Action. 
  • Three law societies have mandated members of their profession to complete continuing professional development programs aimed at furthering the goals of Call to Action 27: the Law Society of British Columbia, the Law Society of Alberta, and most recently, the Law Society of Manitoba. Every law society has made relevant continuing professional development programming available to their members.  
  • Some law societies have reviewed their regulatory processes in response to serious disciplinary cases involving the mishandling of Indigenous clients by individual lawyers. The Law Society of Ontario released its Review Panel report in 2018, which highlights the findings of their investigation and recommendations for change. The Law Society of British Columbia recently completed its own report and recommendations for de-colonizing and indigenizing the law society.  
  • Many law societies have identified addressing the Calls to Action, and the promotion of truth and reconciliation generally speaking, in their strategic plans. Some also developed policies, frameworks or action plans to help achieve their goals. 

One of the Federation’s strategic priorities is to facilitate national information sharing about what law societies are doing in response to Call to Action 27. 

Call to Action # 27

We call upon the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 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.

Federation of Law Societies Commitment to Call to Action # 27: 5 out of 5 = 100%

1The history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools
Yes: See Recommendation # 7 of the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Advisory Committee below.
2The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
No. Not specifically addressed although the Federation notes in their June 2020 report “it is understood that individual law societies are directly responsible for training and education of future legal professionals”. 
3Treaties and Aboriginal rights
Yes. See Recommendation # 7 of the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Advisory Committee below.
4Indigenous law
Yes. See Recommendation # 7 of the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Advisory Committee below.
5Aboriginal–Crown Relations
Yes. See Recommendation # 7 of the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Advisory Committee below.

Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Advisory Committee June 2020: 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.
In December 2020, the Federation adopted a formal statement of commitment to reconciliation. This commitment reflects the advice of our Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action Advisory Committee, that was mandated to deliver recommendations to the Federation on an appropriate response to the TRC. These recommendations were approved in June 2020 along with Guiding Principles that are intended to inform all aspects of the Federation’s work.

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
The “Discussion Paper National Requirement Review” issued on June 26, 2023. 
The Executive Summary provides the highlights of the June 2023 Discussion Paper which describes the issues the Committee has considered and seeks input on options and preliminary proposals for amendments to the National Requirement. The deadline for input is October 16, 2023 either in writing or through discussion in a scheduled meeting with the committee.

Land Acknowledgement

The offices of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (“Federation”) are located on the historic, unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg people – the original custodians of the land now known as Ottawa. We acknowledge and extend our respect to the Algonquin people who have lived on this land since before memory, as well as the other First Nation, Metis and Inuit peoples with whom we share these lands. 

Each year our member law societies welcome the Federation to gather in the province or territory in which they are situated. The Federation is honoured to visit, and learn about, the historic Indigenous lands across Canada. We acknowledge the diversity of Indigenous peoples from coast to coast to coast and we recognize the enduring relationship that exists between them and their lands.

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