Indigenous Framework for the Law Society of BC

A learning journey

Indigenous Framework for the Law Society of BC

Indigenous peoples have been at the forefront of advocating, educating and building alliances to rebuild, reclaim, reestablish and share their Indigenous orders and ways. Organizations, institutes, justice system stakeholders and others, are taking steps to promote inclusivity and respect, recognizing the implicit impact systems have had and continue to have on Indigenous peoples.

On September 23, 2022, the Law Society of BC’s Benchers unanimously approved the Indigenous Framework Report, prepared by the Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee. The report endorses principles that guide the Law Society in its application of the Legal Profession Act (Act), the Law Society Rules (Rules), and the Code of Professional Conduct for B.C. (Code).

The principles within the Indigenous Framework (Framework) are based on the Law Society’s Strategic Plan, the Truth and Reconciliation Action Plan, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action and the BC First Nations Justice Strategy. The Framework weaves together numerous concepts integral to the recognition and advancement of Indigenous peoples and issues.

The Framework does not create new obligations but instead brings together the principles already endorsed by the Law Society. It presents them in a cohesive manner that sets out the prominence of the principles and their logic.

Principle 1 adheres to the saying “Nothing about us without us,” and commits the Law Society to increasing Indigenous representation at all levels throughout the Law Society, including governance, committees, tribunals, employment and membership. It also recognizes the importance of the Law Society’s engagement with, and responsiveness to, issues as raised by Indigenous peoples, organizations and agencies.

Principle 2 acknowledges the unique nature of Indigenous peoples within Canadian Society. In step with this principle, the benchers recently unanimously approved amendments to the oath of office to reflect the Constitution’s recognition and affirmation of the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and M├ętis.

Principle 3 acknowledges that Indigenous cultures, societies, traditions, governance systems and laws continue to exist, and holds space for all lawyers to learn about Indigenous laws and their possible use in the common law and with the Law Society’s own regular processes.

Principle 4 regards Indigenous individuals as equal to all other people, defeating the concepts of colonial superiority and Indigenous inferiority, addresses the right to non-discrimination, and appreciates additional supports are often necessary to create equity.

Principle 5 respects the distinctiveness amongst Indigenous peoples, individuals and territories, and encourages the accommodation of their distinct interests in light of the Act, the Code, policies, procedures and practices.

Principle 6 understands that credibility requires follow-through on its commitments, that its commitments are ongoing, and assures the Law Society will be accountable for publicizing its progress, and is compelled to review, evaluate and renew the Framework obligations enduringly.

Colonial legal systems have done significant and often irreparable harm to Indigenous peoples. History must be studied in earnest search of Indigenous perspectives, and with humility, in order to see how the harm was created.

The Framework contextualizes the confluence of laws, policies, practices and procedures that have impacted Indigenous peoples, and embraces the principles within to ensure the wrongs never repeat. Only by stopping the creation of harm can we truly support healing.