Guide unveiled to help the legal profession work with Indigenous People

Toronto — A brand new guide for lawyers working with Indigenous People was unveiled at a special event at Osgoode Hall in Toronto on May 22, 2018.

The Guide for Lawyers Working with Indigenous People was developed to provide a deeper understanding and a more meaningful inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the legal process.

The goal of the guide is to provide a better understanding of the histories, cultures, laws, including spiritual laws, and legal orders of Indigenous Peoples. The guide also provides practical tools to help lawyers represent Indigenous clients as effectively as possible, and resources for lawyers to continue their education and improve their services to clients and others.

Developed by The Advocates’ Society, the Indigenous Bar Association and the Law Society of Ontario, the guide was produced in response to the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada, released in 2015. The TRC report included ­­94 calls to action. Specifically, call 27 was 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.

“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 Bjorkquist, President, The Advocates’ Society.

To develop the guide, The Advocates’ Society established a task force in 2016, made up of 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 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.  

The Law Society regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario in the public interest. The Law Society has a mandate to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario and act in a timely, open and efficient manner.

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Media Contact: Susan Tonkin, Communications Advisor - Media Relations - Law Society of Ontario at 416-947-7605, or stonkin@lso.ca