Law Society Of Alberta Mandating Indigenous Cultural Competency For Lawyers Operating In The Province
All lawyers operating in Alberta, regardless of affiliation like Donich Law, will be mandated to take a course on Indigenous cultural competency starting in 2021. The Law Society of Alberta issued this mandate on October 2020, as talks about systemic racism gains ground.
This course, and the mandate requiring it, is part of the Law Society of Alberta’s adherence to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action in 2015, which asked that lawyers across Canada, from law firms like Donich Law and the like, learn the history and legacy of residential schools and treaties, as well as the rights of Indigenous people and the legal issues they have to deal with.
The Law Society of British Columbia issued a similar move back in 2019.
Law Society of Alberta President Kent Teskey issued a statement on the mandate posted on their website, saying that they carefully debated on the matter at the Benchers at the October Board meeting, and that this decision is a key part of their commitment to the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Calls to Action, and is consistent with their Strategic Plan for 2020-2024.
Indigenous law practitioner Janet Hutchison, who operates in Sherwood Park, Edmonton, stated that it was a key step in the Law Society of Alberta to really live up to the talks of diversity and equity. They added that reconciliation is built on mutual respect, based off of understanding. Part of this requires the awareness of the past and any transgressions, which is then to be followed by changes in behavior.
The approved Indigenous Cultural Competency course selected by the Law Society of Alberta was developed by NVision Insight Group, a majority Indigenous-owned business that operates in the province, with offices in Ottawa and Iqaluit. The LSA is also working on adding more to the company’s online Indigenous cultural awareness course, including Alberta-specific Indigenous history and topics.
Teskey admitted that the expenses and time constraints might be an issue for some lawyers, so the LAS will be covering the program’s costs for all active lawyers in Alberta, with an 18-month grace period to complete the six-hour course. Additionally, the program can also be taken in segments, providing options for lawyers who need to adjust their schedules.