The fate of the Indigenous course required of Alberta lawyers is in jeopardy after a group petitioned the Alberta Bar Association (LSA) to remove a rule allowing regulators to make legal education compulsory. It has been.
All Alberta attorneys are now required to take a free five-hour online course called The Path that teaches Indigenous cultural competence. Those who do not face suspension.
After receiving a petition signed by 50 of the state’s 11,100 attorneys, the law association issued notice of a special meeting set for Monday. On that day, attorneys will vote on LSA Rule 67.4 regarding compulsory education.
“The Bar Association is dedicated to protecting the public interest by promoting and enforcing standards of professional and ethical conduct by Alberta’s attorneys,” said the association’s chief executive officer. One Elizabeth Osler wrote:
“We are committed to ensuring a fair and transparent special meeting format.”
“Repairing Broken Relationships”
The required course was developed in direct response to Call to Action 27 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. This calls on the Canadian Federation of Law Societies to “ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competence training.”
Since its enactment in 2020, Rule 67.4 has only been used to mandate passes.
Indigenous advocate Crisia Przepiorka says she was disappointed to learn of the efforts to remove the necessary course.
“Indigenous peoples are underrepresented in the legal arena and overrepresented in the legal system,” said Przepiorka.
“Cultural competence is important because it … helps to mend systemic prejudices, mend broken relationships, and mend trust with indigenous peoples and communities.”
Petition organizers say rules remind China
The course began on April 21, 2021, allowing state attorneys to complete the course through October 2022.
In November, the LSA issued administrative sanctions to 26 attorneys who failed to complete the course within the 18 months offered.
“We are not asking you to immerse yourself in our culture. We are asking you to understand what was taken away and the implications that followed.
Calgary-based attorney Roger Song is the original signer of the petition and the organizer of the effort.
Song, who immigrated to Canada as an adult and attended law school in Alberta, says the required courses and penalties for not completing them remind him of his time in China.
“The legal community can impose any educational program … if they believe such a program is necessary for lawyers. Such a system is wrong,” Song said.
JCCF Lawyers Call Course ‘Political Indoctrination’
Song also said he does not believe Canada is a country with a history of systemic discrimination.
“Not to me,” Song said in a phone interview. “You can believe what you want to believe.”
Others who signed the petition have more overt feelings about the course itself.
Glenn Blackett, an attorney at the Calgary-based Justice Center for Constitutional Freedom, describes the mandated course as “re-educating, or indoctrination, into a particular brand of arousal called ‘decolonization.'” I wrote a blog post called
“The legal community is empowered to ensure that lawyers know the law and act ethically. The legal community is not empowered to compel lawyers to comply with any kind of political indoctrination.” Blackett writes.
According to a description on the Law Society’s website, the pass was “designed to help Canadians develop a cultural understanding of Indigenous peoples in a Canadian context.”
This course has been reviewed by Indigenous Attorneys, the LSA’s Indigenous Peoples Advisory Committee, the Attorney Competency Commission, and Attorneys for the Law Society’s Indigenous Initiative.
Chad Haggerty, an attorney for Metis in Calgary, believes the motivation of those wanting the LSA rule repealed “reflects prevalent anti-Aboriginal sentiment in Canada.”
“Common sense cannot be forced”
But Haggerty feels it’s the perfect place to make courses like The Path mandatory in law schools.
“Common sense and compassion cannot be forced,” said Haggerty. “Forcing a closed mind to open is nearly impossible, so it is the wrong approach.”
But Przepiorka disagrees.
“We must remember that there are untrained lawyers around the world who are dealing with serious issues related to or potentially affecting Indigenous peoples.
“So I think we can’t just draw a line and say, ‘Okay, let’s start doing business with people in law school.’ ”