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Statement from Treasurer Teresa Donnelly: Kamloops Indian Residential School

June 23, 2021

TORONTO, ON — Treasurer Teresa Donnelly made the following remarks at today’s meeting of the Board of Directors of the Law Society of Ontario:

“In late May, the nation was horrified by the discovery of the unmarked burials of 215 Indigenous children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential school. This recent uncovering is another painful reminder of the devastating impacts of the residential school system in Canada. Beginning in the mid-19th century and continuing until 1996, over 150,000 Indigenous children were sent to 139 residential schools across the country. For over a century, the goal of Government officials and missionaries was to assimilate Indigenous children by removing them from their parents and their home communities. The devastating harm caused by the residential school system continues to impact survivors, their children, their families and their communities.

“The tragic discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children has evoked profound sadness.  It is hard to imagine the grief and pain of the families and Indigenous communities – especially the members of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. 

“On behalf of Convocation, I wish to express our condolences to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc People, to all survivors of the residential school system; to all Indigenous Peoples of Canada and all those affected by the uncovering of the unmarked burials.

“As a symbol of respect for the 215 children and their grieving families and communities, I ask that we observe a minute of silence.

[Moment of silence]

“The uncovering of this devastating tragedy highlights the important work that the Law Society needs to conduct, together with the Indigenous Advisory Group, regarding the implementation of the Law Society’s Indigenous Framework and the recommendations of the Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous Peoples.  The Law Society’s Indigenous Framework is based on four foundational pillars, which provide perspective and guidance for the Law Society in our interaction with Indigenous Peoples. Those pillars are:

  • Creating and Enhancing Cultural Competency
  • Achieving and Improving Access to Justice
  • Promoting and Supporting Knowledge of Indigenous Legal Systems
  • Taking Action on Reconciliation.

“In addition, it is imperative that the Law Society continue to support the implementation of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Call to Action 27 is specific to law societies. It states: 

‘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.’

“Our work with Indigenous Peoples is a critical part of our work on reconciliation, and on equality, diversity, and inclusion. As the regulator of the legal professions, the Law Society of Ontario is committed to combating racism, in all its forms and to continue working to build more diverse and inclusive legal professions and society.”

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 to act in a timely, open and efficient manner.


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