We call upon the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal– Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusAug. 17, 2020IN PROGRESS
Previous StatusJune 15, 2020IN PROGRESS

Why “Stalled”?

Most of the Provincial Law Societies have initiated a response to this Call to Action. The Federation of Law Societies of Canada made an initial commitment to respond to the Calls to Action on Mar. 11, 2016, and then on Nov. 20, 2017 and then again on Nov. 15, 2019. After almost 4 years there is still no supporting details on any specific actions and/or recommendations. Canadian Bar Association endorses this C2A as do multiple Faculties of Law.

Federation of Law Societies

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is the national coordinating body of the 14 law societies mandated by provincial and territorial law to regulate Canada’s 100,000 lawyers, Quebec’s 4,600 notaries and Ontario’s 7,600 licensed paralegals in the public interest. It is a leading voice on issues of national and international importance relating to the administration of justice and the rule of the law.

On March 11, 2016, the Council of the Federation voted to establish a working group to develop recommendations on how best to effectively respond to the Calls to Action. The Council resolution included a commitment to a process that engages representatives of Indigenous peoples.

Nov. 20, 2017 – Commitment by incoming President Sheila McPherson, partner with the firm of Lawson Lundell LLP in the NWT, to advance strategic plan objectives of responding to the TRC calls to Action as they relate to the legal profession.

Nov. 15, 2019 – Commitment by incoming President Morgan Cooper, General Counsel of Memorial University in St. Johns Newfoundland to press ahead with work in response to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as they relate to the legal profession” and finalizing the Strategic Plan 2020-2023.

Provincial Law Societies
The Law Society of British Columbia

Dec. 9, 2019 – The Law Society of British Columbia has moved to require Indigenous cultural competency training for all practising lawyers in the province, in response to gaps in legal education that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified. The law society’s board of governors determined that lawyer competence includes knowledge of the history of Indigenous-Crown relations, the history and legacy of residential schools and specific legislation regarding Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Beginning in 2021, all practising lawyers in B.C. will be required to take a six-hour online course covering these areas, as well as legislative changes that could arise from the province’s newly enacted Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Lawyers will have up to two years to complete the course the mandatory course, which is a first among law societies across Canada, Merrill said. (Globe & Mail)

The Law Society of Saskatchewan

June 22, 2018 – The Law Society of Saskatchewan (the “Society”) recognizes the significance of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and is committed to implementing the Calls to Action that came out of that work.  As such, the Benchers approved the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Group to guide the Society’s efforts in this area. 

The Law Society of Manitoba

Strategy 3.3 of the Law Society of Manitoba Strategic Plan 2017-2020 states “There are two activities included in support of the strategy to address the Call to Action # 27 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC):  

  • Activity 3.3.1 is to “Increase cultural competency in the delivery of legal services” and
  • Activity 3.3.2 is to “Increase cultural competency among the benchers and staff”.  

The Law Society of Manitoba’s activities in response to the TRC’s Calls to Action should fall within five broad categories: legal education, internal awareness, governance and operations, support for Indigenous members and collaboration and engagement.

Law Society of Ontario

May 22, 2018 – Developed by The Advocates’ Society, the Indigenous Bar Association and the Law Society of Ontario, The Guide for Lawyers Working with Indigenous People was developed to provide a deeper understanding and a more meaningful inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the legal process. The goal of the guide is to provide a better understanding of the histories, cultures, laws, including spiritual laws, and legal orders of Indigenous Peoples. The guide also provides practical tools to help lawyers represent Indigenous clients as effectively as possible, and resources for lawyers to continue their education and improve their services to clients and others.


May 24, 2018 – A series of strong recommendations designed to make the Law Society’s regulatory and hearing processes more culturally competent and culturally safe for Indigenous Peoples was approved by Convocation. the Review Panel made nine far-reaching recommendations, including the need to:

  • establish and maintain a culturally competent regulatory process and a culturally safe environment;
  • establish better communication and engagement with complainants from Indigenous communities;
  • create a trusting relationship with Indigenous communities through partnering and exploring ways to increase access to justice;
  • build appropriate capacity within the Professional Regulation Division and ensure it is appropriately resourced for major cases and those involving vulnerable individuals;
  • ensure cultural competence for staff investigating complaints involving Indigenous licensees or complainants and explore ways to incorporate principles of Indigenous Legal Systems in Law Society processes;
  • create permanent, internal structures and supports to appropriately manage investigations and prosecutions of licensees who are the subject of complaints from Indigenous Peoples — and investigations of Indigenous licensees; and
  • enhance guidance and education for lawyers and paralegals who serve Indigenous clients who have experienced trauma.

The panel also recommended that the Law Society Tribunal and Tribunal Committee:explore ways to incorporate Indigenous Law principles and apply them in appropriate cases, with the help of Indigenous Law experts; and provide adjudicators with ongoing training in the history of Indigenous Law in Canada, as well as Indigenous methods of dispute resolution, Indigenous ceremony and protocols, the Independent Assessment Process and other relevant topics.


July 28, 2019 – Announced funding for the University of Saskatchewan Nunavut Law Program at the Nunavut Arctic College, a legal education program designed to increase the number of practicing lawyers in Nunavut and to improve access to justice for Nunavummiut. The program is a partnership between Nunavut Arctic College and the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. The Government of Canada will provide the University of Saskatchewan with $341,600 through the Justice Partnership and Innovation Program over the next two years. ‎ Funding from the Government of Canada will enable students to engage in experiential learning opportunities in legal advocacy and will establish a legal clinic in Iqaluit where they can gain hands-on law practice experience. The program will also provide guest lecturers on Arctic, Inuit and Circumpolar issues, and will hold programming on cultural skills, Inuktitut legal terminology, and traditional law lectures to reflect the needs and priorities of Nunavut.

Atlantic Region

A new booklet designed for people working in the criminal justice system aims to give more context and understanding when working with Indigenous people involved with the system. It provides information about the Indigenous groups in Atlantic Canada, a brief history of Indigenous-Crown relations and The Indian Act, as well as how generational trauma, such as the residential schools, are still having an effect today.  Bringing Balance to the Scales of Justice was designed by the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. in partnership with the Elsipogtog Restorative Justice Program in New Brunswick, the Miawpukek First Nation in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network in Nova Scotia. It was released in the last month and is now being distributed to police, court officials, probation officers, judges and lawyers throughout the Atlantic region. (CBC)

Canadian Bar Association

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) is a national association representing 36,000 jurists, including lawyers, notaries, law teachers and students across Canada

Responding to the TRC Calls to Action March 2016

The CBA submission was led by the CBA Aboriginal Law Section, with input from other CBA groups including the Criminal Justice Section, Family Law Section, International Law Section, Women Lawyers Forum and Children’s Law Committee, and assistance from the Legislation and Law Reform Directorate at the CBA office. The submission has been reviewed by the Legislation and Law Reform Committee and approved as a public statement of the CBA.

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) fully supports the goal of achieving reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Many of the calls to action are consistent with CBA policies and have our unqualified support. We plan to continue our efforts to advance those positions, with reference to the TRC work.

CBA response to Call to Action # 27

The CBA is a leader in the field of continuing legal education and professional development who organizes national, regional and local conferences, seminars and workshops for lawyers that include components of cultural competency training. Relevant topics to date include some of those referenced in calls to action 27 and 28 concerning the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous law and Aboriginal-Crown relations. CBA skills-based training has touched on intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism, areas that are often relevant for lawyers practicing in areas of law that impact Canada’s Indigenous peoples, even if indirectly. The CBA will continue to sponsor these events, and consider how to further expand cultural competency training to our members.

Resolution carried by the Council of the CBA at Annual meeting on August 11, 2016

Association commits to further advancing the TRC Calls to Action internally by:

  • introducing an IRS educational component at professional development events to educate lawyers on the IRS legacy and the TRC recommendations;
  • reaffirming and promoting CBA resolutions on specific subjects in the Calls to Action, and encouraging new policies aimed at addressing other aspects of the Calls to Action;
  • developing a central website of materials to advance the Calls to Action, including videos and papers, and lists of speakers and workshop leaders;
  • working with others developing materials for the legal community, businesses and the public to encourage cultural competency and education on the IRS legacy and the work of the TRC;
  • working with the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to ensure its Model Code of Professional Conduct includes lawyers’ responsibility to educate themselves on these issues;
  • providing cultural competency training and IRS legacy education to all CBA staff; and
  • hiring a professional firm to review the CBA’s current structure to identify any barriers to the participation of Indigenous lawyers within the CBA.

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

The Government of Canada is not the lead on a response for Call to Action 27.