The Law Society of Alberta has decided that all lawyers in the province must take a course on Indigenous cultural competency starting next year.
The new course stems from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action in 2015, which included a request that Canadian lawyers be educated on the history and legacy of residential schools as well as treaties, Indigenous rights and Indigenous legal issues.
Law Society of Alberta president Kent Teskey says the regulatory body rarely makes a course mandatory, but he says in this case, everyone needs to be on the same page.
“If lawyers are going to provide justice to the Alberta public, all lawyers, regardless of practice area, need some sort of baseline knowledge of these issues,” he said.
Patti Laboucane-Benson, who provides training on the historical trauma experienced by First Nations and Métis people, calls the new six-hour course a good first step.
“For so many years our justice system was built on very racist and stereotypical assumptions about Indigenous people and this is just one part of that unpacking of those colonial stereotypes,” she said.
She says the justice system needs to understand the root cause of a problem in order to solve it and stop it from recurring.
The law society will cover the cost of the training for all active Alberta lawyers, who will be given at least 18 months to complete it.
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