Elevating our Cultural Awareness

  • December 01, 2017
  • Tina L. Dion, QC

Welcome to the newest addition to BarTalk, Indigenous Matters, where we seek to elevate the cultural awareness of BC’s legal profession as it relates to Indigenous Peoples and the practice of law. In this first article, Tina Dion, QC shares recent developments from the Truth and reconciliation Working Group (“TRWG”) and the Aboriginal Lawyers Forum (“ALF”).


An update on TRWG and ALF

Truth and Reconciliation Working Group

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its Executive Summary Report on June 2, 2015, along with 94 Calls to Action, and on December 15, 2015, it released its Final Report. The Calls to Action are aimed at redressing the legacy of residential schools and advancing the process of reconciliation. 

At its meeting on November 18, 2016, the CBABC Executive Committee passed a resolution establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Working Group. At the January 28, 2017 meeting of the Provincial Council, the Executive Committee launched the TRWG to respond to the Calls to Action, specifically Calls to Action 27 and 28. An invitation was extended to members of Provincial Council to participate on the TRWG. Currently, there are 20 members of the TRWG, of which, eight are Indigenous members. 

At its first meeting on February 7, 2017, the chairperson was determined, and draft Terms of Reference were tabled for discussion and approval, as were proposed sub-committees. Sub-committee mandates, and for which they will make recommendations to the CBABC Executive Committee, are: Professional Development and Section Programming, Development of a CBABC Position statement, Law Firm Resources and Guides, and Indigenous Leadership and Advocacy to implement the Calls to Action. Since February 2017 the TRWG has been meeting almost monthly. Each of the five sub-committees has determined its chair, and together with their members, they continue to advance their mandates. 

An interim report on the work of the TRWG will be provided at the January 2018 Provincial Council. It is anticipated that some of the sub-committees will have concluded their work, and others will have more to do.

Aboriginal Lawyers Forum

The Aboriginal Lawyers Forum was formally established as a forum of the CBABC in 2010. The ALF is the only forum of the CBA in Canada. The mandate of the ALF, fulfilled through its three objectives – providing networking opportunities, leadership and mentoring, and opportunities to celebrate Indigenous culture – is to address issues facing Indigenous students and lawyers, including their retention in the legal profession and the support and enhancement of their stature and influence in it. 

On January 28, 2017, the CBABC amended its bylaws to, inter alia, establish a permanent position on the Executive Committee for the chair of the ALF, or a designate. Participation on the ALF Executive Committee has been increasing and for 2017-2018, the committee is comprised of 11 Indigenous lawyers. 

On June 16, 2017, the ALF hosted its 6th annual retreat, including our first-ever all Indigenous Judge’s Panel. Later that evening, the ALF hosted its 10th Annual Aboriginal Day Online Auction reception. Monies raised from the auction are directed to support ALF events and to support annual Indigenous student awards. 

At the annual Committees Appointment Day held on July 6, 2017, the CBABC Executive Committee resolved to create seats for an ALF representative on the following committees: Government Relations Committee, BarTalk Editorial Board Committee, and the Advisory Committee to the Judicial Council of British Columbia. Also, starting this fall, the ALF now attends the Law Society’s Benchers meetings as a regular guest.

The ALF hosted its 8th annual holiday banquet on December 1, 2017. The Executive recognized one Indigenous student from each BC law school with a $500 Stu-dent Appreciation Award. Also, the winner of the Special Contribution Award is the Honourable Steven Point. He is a Provincial Court judge and past Lieutenant Governor of BC.


Tina L. Dion, QC, practises in Tsawwassen, BC. She is the Chair of the ALF and TRWG.