Hello ALF Membership,
We are pleased to update you on an important initiative underway that will impact our membership and Indigenous lawyers in B.C. The Aboriginal Lawyers Forum is making a concerted effort to promote Indigenous Candidates running in the upcoming Bencher Elections. The role of Bencher is a significant undertaking and responsibility and it is vital to have an Indigenous voice at the table.
According to ALF's research, since 1884 there have only been two elected Indigenous benchers, with Karen Snowshoe serving from 2018 - 2021. Karen Snowshoe has made significant contributions during her two elected terms, including creating respectful space for diverse views at the Bencher Table, presiding over disciplinary hearings as a Tribunal member, participating in numerous committees, attending call ceremonies and conducting Bencher/articled student interviews . Due to a high demand on Karen's person and professional life, she has chosen to not run for re-election. Karen has also not been shy about expressing the various challenges she has experienced as the lone Indigenous voice at the Bencher table and on the Tribunal. If you look at the bencher meeting minutes there is a guest list that includes a lot of Indigenous peoples (a representative from the CBABC Aboriginal Lawyers Forum, a representative from CLEBC Truth and Reconciliation Working Group, and Indigenous staff lawyer Andrea Hilland), but only the Benchers are permitted to speak during Bencher meetings.
The LSBC is currently undertaking three Indigenous-specific initiatives: (1) Indigenous Cultural Competency; (2) T&R Task Force; and (3) Regulatory Review Task Force. The Regulatory Review Task Force was established in response to Karen's dissent in the Bronstein disciplinary decision, and looks at how the disciplinary process needs to be more respectful for Indigenous complainants and witnesses.
There is a significant need for Indigenous Benchers and the need for more than one to be at the Bencher table.
The ALF reached to four Indigenous candidates to run for Bencher:
We are asking you to support these and any other Indigenous candidates, and in particular to spread the word to each of your workplaces and networks. There are 340 Indigenous lawyers out of a total population of 14,500 lawyers in BC (The LSBC reports that 340 lawyers have self-identified as Indigenous). We need non-Indigenous and Indigenous votes for these candidates. Karen Snowshoe was elected with 1,100++ votes.
Candidate statements are linked in the above list, which we ask you to share with your workplaces and networks.
The Aboriginal Lawyers Forum Executive