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CBABC Taking Action

Implementing the TRC Calls to Action

CBABC Taking Action

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (“TRC”) released its Final Report in December 2015, along with 94 Calls to Action (“Calls”), with respect to reconciliation efforts in Canada between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. SomeCalls were in relation to the legal system and profession focusing on new approaches to the relationship it has historically had with Indigenous peoples. The BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association (“CBABC”) took the initiative to respond to those Calls, focusing on justice issues that are within provincial jurisdiction.

Under the leadership of CBABC 2016-17 President Michael Welsh, QC and vice-president Bill Veenstra, the Executive Committee resolved at its November 2016 meeting to establish a working group. The Truth and Reconciliation Working Group (“TRWG”) was launched at Provincial Council at its January 2018 meeting. An open call was made to Provincial Council members by president Welsh and vice-president Veenstra for volunteers for the TRWG. As then Aboriginal Lawyers Representative to the Executive Committee, I also put out a call to ALF members to join the TRWG.

As a result of the calls to volunteer, more than 25 CBABC members, representing a wide range of practice areas, including federal and provincial Crown Counsel, criminal Bar practitioners, Aboriginal law practitioners as well as corporate and commercial, and business lawyers, joined the TRWG. Of the 25 members, about 11 were Indigenous members. At the first meeting of the TRWG in February 2018, I assumed the role of chair.

The TRWG formed six sub-committees:

  • Professional Development and Section Programming sub-committee with a mandate to make recommendations to enhance CBABC’s commitment to implementing the Calls, increasing educational opportunities and developing cultural competency for CBABC members;
  • Development sub-committee, with a mandate to develop a position statement for the CBABC regarding the implementation of the Calls;
  • Law Firm Resources and Guides, with a mandate to develop sub-committee resource(s) for law firms to adopt and implement;
  • Indigenous Leadership sub-committee, with a mandate to increase Indigenous participation in CBABC activities and leadership; and
  • Advocacy sub-committee, with a mandate to develop strategic plans with short-, medium- and long-term external advocacy initiatives related to the Calls.

Over the next 16 months, the TRWG worked diligently in developing a comprehensive report with action items and implementation time-frames for them. 2017-18 President Veenstra and I submitted the Truth and Reconciliation Working Group Final Report to Provincial Council (June 2018) (“Report”) to Provincial Council at its June 2018 meeting. It is anticipated that the Report will be adopted at the September 29, 2018 Provincial Council meeting.

The CBABC has invited other branches and the national CBA to use any portion of the Report to assist with the implementation of the Calls within their systems.

Commencing in January 2017 and at each Provincial Council meeting since, the CBABC has continued to invite leading Indigenous practitioners, judges of Indigenous heritage as well as non-lawyers to present on a wide variety of topics to enhance the cultural competencies of Provincial Council members. We have heard from Provincial Council members about how valuable the speakers series has been for them. Among the recommendations by the TRWG was the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Officer to implement the action and implementation plan contained in the Report, which recommendation was adopted by the Executive Committee.

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