Canadian Bar Association launches truth and reconciliation toolkit for law firms

In June 2021, the Canadian Bar Assocation (CBA) is launching a Truth and Reconciliation toolkit, focused on large Candaian law firms, and helping them to reconcile and renew relationships with indigenous communities in Canada. The toolkit is aimed at firms that are already on a reconciliation journey or would like to begin one, and firms of any size that want to become better allies.

The toolkit contains a comprehensive list of templates, guides and resources to help firms further their reconciliation efforts. It is divided into four sections:

  • Leadership and Governance
  • Learning, Celebrating and Supporting Indigenous Communities
  • Talent Management and Students
  • Law and Legal Traditions

The toolkit includes resources on how firms can ensure their human resource policies are diverse and inclusive and what questions they should ask prospective Indigenous employees or students. It includes guidance on how to ensure firms have a cultural competency lens on their hiring processes. The toolkit also includes a section on Indigenous law and legal traditions is a reference hub for comprehensive glossaries, terminology guides, and many other resources to understand everything from the Indian Act to the United Nations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and how they apply to the Canadian context.

CBA President Bradley Regehr has said “Whether you are just beginning your reconciliation journey or are already on your way, there are tremendous resources here to help you learn to be a better ally, engage with Indigenous advisors, immerse yourself in Indigenous culture, consider ways to recruit and retain Indigenous talent, and much, much more.”

The toolkit comes in the wake of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which called for action withing the legal profession. The CBA began in 2016 by committing to do its part to advance the calls to action that fit within our mandate. It established a Truth and Reconciliation Task Force, created a dedicated website and, with NVision Insight Group, developed an accredited educational program called The Path: Your Journey Through Indigenous Canada to educate lawyers about the history of Indigenous-settler relations and the legacy of the Indian Residential School System. It also partnered with Myrna McCallum to launch her Trauma-Informed Lawyer podcast.

Read more about the toolkit here. 

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Canada launches national wellbeing study of legal professionals

A partnership of the different Canadian law societies, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, the Canadian Bar Association and the Université de Sherbrooke is coming together for a first-of-its-kind national study on the well-being of legal professionals.

The study is based on the fact that legal practitioners are amongst the grouping of professionals most at risk of experiencing mental wellness issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression. The partnership aims to better understand why this is, in order to better support legal professionals, providing them with the necessary resources to promote a healthy and sustainable legal practice.

A range of legal practitioners are being contacted in order to complete the study. For example, In Ontario, the following legal professionals are being asked to participate in an anonymous and confidential study questionnaire:

  • All lawyers and paralegals, including those who are presently unemployed, on leave and who have retired or stopped working in law in the past year;
  • Articling candidates who are working in any capacity, including private practice, public sector, university or college, etc.;
  • Experiential learning candidates who completed the Law Practice Program at Ryerson, the Programme de pratique du droit at the University of Ottawa or the Integrated Practice Curriculum program at Lakehead University in 2021.

Read more about the study here,  Or watch a video of lead researcher Dr. Nathalie Cadieux introducing the study here

 

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Understanding and Interpreting Law School Enrolment Data

Abstract

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in legal education and in the legal profession. In line with its mission to promote quality, access, and equity in legal education, LSAC is providing a report, Understanding and Interpreting Law School Enrollment Data: A Focus on Race and Ethnicity, to help law schools, admission professionals, and other legal education stakeholders understand how we are measuring who is in the pipeline. The purpose of the report is to inform conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion in law school and recruitment efforts. The report outlines the history of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) data reporting standards, how these differ from LSAC data collection and reporting practices, and the social and cultural implications of different race and ethnicity data collection and reporting methods. The report includes examples of how the different methods affect conclusions that can be drawn from analyses of subgroup trends over time.

Bodamer, Elizabeth and Dustman, Kimberly and Langer, Debra and Walzer, Mark and Camilli, Gregory and Gallagher, Ann, Understanding and Interpreting Law School Enrollment Data (October 15, 2020).
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Canadian Bar Association report on justice and COVID-19

During the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) AGM, held on the 18th February 2021, the CBA released its new report on COVID-19 and the justice system ‘No Turning Back’. The report, which was produced by a special task force, has concluded that there can be no return to the way things worked in the legal profession and the justice systems before the pandemic.

The report suggests that the pandemic has brought changes to the Canadian legal profession which have been long-awaited. The report includes a number of recommendations, to the CBA, around continuing and building on these changes in order to create a more innovative and effective justice system, which the population can have confidence in. Its recommendations include:

  • Collaborate with domestic and international justice system partners on best practices
  • Ensure that changes enhance access to justice instead of detracting from it by minimizing unintended consequences, including breaches of privacy
  • Consider the impact on marginalized groups of implementing AI and other emerging technologies

The task force, established in April, 2020, brought together CBA members and justice system partners from across the country to assess the immediate and evolving issues for the delivery of legal services resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

CBA President, and task force Co-Chair, Brad Regehr has said “The pandemic kick-started a modernization of the way the legal profession and the justice system provide services – something the CBA has been advocating for a long time. We now need to make sure these changes are sustainable and that they are properly implemented to enhance access to justice. ”

Read the full report here. 

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Canadian Law Schools Must Do Their Part to Help Combat Climate Change

The intensifying physical and socio-economic effects of climate change, mainstreamed by political debates and scientific evidence on anthropogenic disruptions to the global climate system, have motivated changing legislation, regulation, litigation, and institutions. But legal education is not keeping up; climate change has not yet been taught well and broadly in Canadian law schools. While a few schools have offered climate law courses, the majority have not done so in any systematic way. The unprecedentedly expanding demands from youth and students for aggressive climate action should call the attention of law schools to the roles they should play in combatting climate change.

Chen, Ling, Canadian Law Schools Must Do Their Part to Help Combat Climate Change (January 6, 2020). Policy Options (February 18, 2020),

Read the full article on SSRN.

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Federation of Law Societies of Canada commitment to reconciliation

On the 7th December 2020 the Federation of Law Societies of Canada released a formal statement of commitment to reconciliation. The statement was in recognition of the federation’s responsibility as a justice stakeholder to foster reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

The statement received the unanimous approval of the Federation Council and is an essential part of the Federation’s framework for responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (“TRC”) Calls to Action. It recognizes the role that justice system participants play in fostering truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada and highlights the steps that the Federation will take in fulfilling its commitment.

The statement which was developed in consultation with members of the Federations Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action Advisory Committee and Indigenous legal experts, includes a statement of guiding principles which apply across all work, as well as nine specific recommendations.

View the federation’s statement here. 

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Canadian Bar Association releases new resources to improve access to justice

The Canadian Bar Association has released a new guide aimed at addressing the country’s access to justice crisis. The guide has been developed by the CBS’s Access to Justice Subcommittee, based on past research, particularly the Reaching Equal Justice Report. The guide is divided into three different sections, with each section providing background to the issues and links to resources created by the CBA. The sections are broken down into

  1. Preventing Problems – focused on improving legal capability, taking legal health seriously, enhancing triage and referral systems to navigate paths to justice as quickly and efficiently as possible, and taking steps to ensure that technology is well used to facilitate equal, inclusive justice.
  2. Providing Legal Services – focused on reinventing the delivery of legal services so that a wide spectrum of legal services are available to meet the range of legal needs.
  3. Transforming Justice – focused on reforming the formal justice system, complementing informal everyday justice innovations and eliminating gaps between formal and informal justice to create a seamless civil justice system.

The goal of the guide is to give members the information and tools to talk about access to justice with colleagues, clients and communities, post on social media about access to justice issues, and to speak with politicians about the problems – and possible solutions.

The guide says “As lawyers and notaries, we have a professional duty to the courts, the justice system and the public. We need people to feel confident that the justice system is fair and accessible to all. Governments need to invest more and develop creative solutions to our access to justice problem. Change only comes when governments are pressured to act.”

Access the guide here.

 

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A Conversation About Canadian Legal Education: Lakehead University and Dialogue Pedagogy

Abstract

Through my experiences opening the first new law school in Ontario in 44 years, I have had time to reflect on my own teaching style and have employed what has been termed “Dialogue Pedagogy.” Using an auto-ethnography methodology in this paper, I will examine ways of teaching the law including the case-law system of study distilling black-letter law and the Socratic Method which is widely considered the preferred method in legal education. I argue that there is a better, and more humane, way to teach our law school students.

Experience has shown that although students get training on issue identification, they are not taught to plan a solution by dialoguing with the relevant actors. It has been my challenge to come up with an adequate teaching and evaluation method that allows students to do an interactive assignment. I have found that law students need more opportunities to access their emotional intelligence and interactions with real people, and I have captured this skill in my mandatory 1L Tort class through an exercise I call the “Torts Crime Scene.”

Connecting our students to life and humanity and having empathy for others is perhaps one of the most important things that we do. Having students learn dusty legal maxims is, for good or bad, essential. However, being able to connect what they are learning to them personally, their family, their friends, their fellow human beings is paramount. Our students have changed, and so too, our teaching must change. The transformation cannot simply be a system of add-ons but of fundamental review and evolution.

Chapman, Frances, A Conversation About Canadian Legal Education: Lakehead University and Dialogue Pedagogy (September 1, 2020). (2020) 21:1 The Western Michigan University Cooley Journal of Practical & Clinical Law 1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3690384

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Federation of Law Societies of Canada approves recommendations towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples

The Federation has adopted an overarching framework to guide it on the path to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada. Laid out in a report from the Federation’s TRC Calls to Action Advisory Committee (“Advisory Committee”), the framework is rooted in the recognition of the significance of Indigenous legal orders, legal principles, and the perspectives and experiences of Indigenous peoples.

The framework encourages a broad approach to reconciliation while specifically addressing two of the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Final Report, which highlighted the need to raise awareness and competence among all legal professionals and law students in Canada as it relates to Indigenous peoples.

Read the full story.

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Law Society of Saskatchewan podcast on the future of legal education with Dr. Kara Mitchelmore

The Law Society of Saskatchewan has released a new episode of its Legal Skies podcast, outlining the ongoing changes to legal education in Canada, as well as the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had and will have on education and training. The podcast features Dr. Kara Mitchelmore of the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLED), and features  discussion about the new practice readiness education programme, as well as ongoing issues around remote learning and assessment.

Listen to the podcast.

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