Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities

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Nathan Baker

Engaging and working with Indigenous communities is important to me. Recognizing that there are better ways forward and approaches to justice that we have not always recognized is the starting point for a better conversation. 


Janis Criger

First, we need to face the truth. Facing the truth is painful and causes great shame, but we can’t reconcile unless we gain proper insight into how this country came to be. Then we can reconcile, by bringing our two systems together to make them work better for both groups.


Quinn Ross

This is absolutely fundamental to the legitimacy of the legal system in Ontario.  If we do not recognize the harms done (often with full ‘legal’ authority) and work toward reconciliation our system of law falls into question.


Robert Shawyer

The LSO has an obligation to support reconciliation. The LSO also has an obligation continue its outreach to the various indigenous communities across Ontario. Finally, the LSO has an obligation to work with the various indigenous communities across Ontario on access to justice initiatives and encourage indigenous enrollment in law school.

Michael B Lesage

Given Canada’s makeup and history, this is indeed an important issue, but is not the sole issue of importance.



Rebecca Bromwich

This work is important and needs to be ongoing.


Andrew Spurgeon

Reconciliation will inevitably be slow and probably be ever incomplete. The Law Society takes its role in this process seriously.  There are many projects and initiatives – big and small – within the Law Society that I support which are designed to foster humility, respect, tolerance and listening.   These must be patiently pursued over the long term if true progress to the goal of reconciliation is to be made. 



Malcolm M. Mercer

I support the work of the Equity and Indigenous Affairs Committee and the Indigenous Advisory Group as well as the Indigenous Framework and the Report of the Review Panel. The LSO needs to work to ensure that legal services are available to indigenous communities and to ensure that those legal services are provided competently and professionally.


Atrisha Lewis

I am supportive of initiatives that recognize and integrate Indigenous communities. As a non-Indigenous person, I need to consult with my Indigenous colleagues for suggestions on how best to do this.


François Baril

I support the recommendations of the 2016 Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee report.


Gina Papageorgiou

This is critical. The Equity and Indigenous Advisory Committee (of which I am a member) will begin working on implementing recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Report. We need to acknowledge the harms that were done through the use of the law and seek to understand and improve our laws and governance taking into account Indigenous traditions and laws. We need to ensure that there are no bars to Indigenous people entering the legal profession and ensure that there are enough to serve their communities.


Caryma Sa’d

Historically, the legal community has been complicit in the oppression of Indigenous peoples. For instance, Indigenous peoples were legally prevented from hiring lawyers until 1951. Meanwhile, receiving professional training resulted in losing Indian status, which meant giving up the right to live on reserve, vote in band elections, or inherit property from indigenous lands. The legal field was effectively off-limits for Indigenous students, on pain of being stripped of one’s identity. We no longer see such flagrant discrimination, but the damage has not been rectified. We still do not have Indigenous representation in law proportionate to the general population, to say nothing of over-representation in provincial and federal carceral institutions. The disparity in numbers does not reflect a lack of talent or ability, but rather a lack of opportunity to pursue legal careers. Reconciliation should involve the LSO looking in the mirror, however uncomfortable that experience may be.


Jonathan Rosenthal

Despite the principles enunciated in cases like Gladue and Ipeelee the percentage of indigenous prisoners has not been reduced. I think the LSO must work harder to ensuring that indigenous communities have increased access to lawyers and that the LSO continues to push for better education so that aboriginal issues are better understood within the profession.


Megan Shortreed

First Nation, Métis and Inuit Peoples may face unique challenges in entering and remaining in the profession, and their success is critical to access to justice for indigenous communities and reconciliation. The LSO should collaborate with Indigenous lawyers, paralegals and elders as leaders and teachers about strategies that can improve entry and retention. The LSO can partner with and support programs at law schools to assist and promote indigenous law students. On the Advocates’ Society Board, I sat on the Diversity Task Force and actively supported the Guide for Lawyers Working with Indigenous Peoples, co-published with the LSO and Indigenous Bar Association.

Selwyn A Pieters

Definitely. First Nations in Canada are still living in Third-World conditions and are subjected to systemic discrimination in the justice system.


Peter Wardle

I have supported our Indigenous Framework and currently chair a Federation of Law Societies committee considering adding a competency in indigenous legal issues to the National Requirement that every
Canadian law school must meet.

Kristin Hutton



John Arkelian

Like diversity and inclusivity (below), the approach of members to reconciliation and indigenous communities should be left to the goodwill, honor, and integrity of members themselves, not mandated from ‘on high’ in a meddlesome exercise of political correctness. If a majority of members demonstrably support specific initiatives – for example, seeking intervener status in constitutional litigation touching on issues like reconciliation – it may be appropriate for the Law Society to do so on a selective, case-by-case basis. However, it is not the proper role of the Law Society to interfere with its members’ freedom of speech or freedom of conscience, or to seek to promulgate a standard of political correctness in the areas of social conscience. Instead, it should, with its members’ consent, act as an intervener in litigation cases involving constitutional issues like separation of powers, fundamental fairness, and misuse of the ‘notwithstanding clause’ in Canada’s Charter of Rights & Freedoms.

Sylvie Patenaude

I honestly cannot profess to have a position on this. I am open-minded and would certainly entertain feedback from our indigenous communities.





Howard Goldblatt

I support the work being done by the Equity and Indigenous Issues Committee and the Indigenous Advisory Group.

E Patrick Shea, LSM

Lawyers have an important role to play in the reconciliation process and should do so.  However, I encourage lawyers to not just speak about reconciliation.  I grew up in Northern Ontario and have seen first-hand the challenges that Indigenous people face on a daily basis.  Talk of reconciliation and introductory words at conferences are absolutely important and necessary, but those actions alone do not provide clean drinking water, adequate housing, proper recreation facilities, employment opportunities or affordable nutritious food for Indigenous people living in remote communities.  Nor do words alone address the mental health issues faced by Indigenous youth that drives the high suicide rates we see in those communities–no child in Canada should ever be in a position where they see no way forward other than to take their own lives.  We as lawyers can and should take active steps as individuals to address those issues.  Why an atrium or lecture hall in a law school, when it could be a rink in a remote fly-in community?


Addison Cameron-Huff

First Nations people face incredible challenges in some communities and there is a complicated legacy of historical injustice that burdens many Ontarians today. To the extent that it’s possible for the LSO to assist with overcoming challenges faced by First Nations peoples, while remaining within its mandate, I will strongly support these efforts. 


Jerry B. Udell

While we can not correct the wrongs of the past in a short period of time, we should continue to take steps to acknowledge our mistakes and correct them.


Sean Robichaud

I do not feel it appropriate for me to provide any insights on how to best address this issue. However, I do know that Indigenous communities and lawyers must be consulted and included in the advancement of the profession and our professional obligations within it. I look forward to being part of those discussions if elected. 


Billeh Hamud

Indigenous communities and reconciliation is very important. As a regulator, the Law Society needs to start listening to indigenous lawyers and communities in order to ensure that indigenous communities are provided with access to justice. In certain northern communities in Ontario, the systemic racism faced by indigenous communities and lawyers is real. The Law Society needs to acknowledge its role as a regulator and voice of the profession. We need Aboriginal benchers to be represented.


Mitchell Kowalski

Convocation is a board of directors who are to refrain from fettering their decisions in advance. I remain open to all proposals that fall with the LSO mandate and budget.


M. Steven Rastin

LSO should continue to support projects and undertakings that would foster the role of indigenous reconciliation. Conduct by licensees contrary to this mandate should be aggressively disciplined as part of the LSO’s core mandate.


Robert Burd

Having been on the LSO’s Indigenous Review Panel, I think it is imperative that we reconcile with Indigenous communities


Jeff Cowan

The LSO has recognized its obligation, and that of lawyers, to support the constitutionalized objective of reconciliation. It must continue its outreach to and support of Indigenous communities, recognize their particular access to justice issues, and support initiatives that increase the number and viability of Indigenous licensees.


Etienne Esquega

The LSO needs to do better when it comes to regulating the profession and the services provided to indigenous communities. The 2018 Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous Peoples provides a summary of the many shortcomings.

The calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Report calls for lawyers to become culturally competent on indigenous cultures, histories, law and legal orders. The LSO must continue to consult with and utilize the Indigenous Advisory Group to the LSO as we continue to pursue reconciliation.


Jayashree Goswami

The LSO has a direct mandate to ensure that all licensees receive appropriate cultural competency training on the history of the First Nations, Metis and Inuit people and their relationship with the Canadian crown and government. The obligation arises from Call to Action 27 of The Truth and Reconciliation Report. This is an ongoing and permanent obligation of the LSO. Without question, this should be a key priority for the LSO.

Aside from facilitating training and cultural competency, the LSO must take proactive steps to reduce and remove barriers for indigenous participating in the profession. The LSO should take a leadership role in improving the capacity of the mentorship and DHC program to assist indigenous licensees. The LSO should be a strong advocate for indigenous representation in the judiciary and on the judiciary advisory committees. The LSO must help accelerate a culture shift by celebrating the accomplishments of indigenous licensees to create a roster of role models to inspire and instill confidence in young indigenous lawyers.

Finally, and most importantly, I take this opportunity to remind all voters that representation and change starts at Convocation – it is imperative that there be indigenous representation at Convocation.


Paul Le Vay

The LSO needs to ensure that we are doing all that we can within our mandate to further cause of reconciliation, including eliminating barriers of access for Indigenous lawyers and paralegals and equipping licencees to provide legal services to Indigenous clients in a culturally competent way. Le Barreau doit s`assurer de faire tout à l`intérieur de son mandat pour avancer la cause de réconciliation, y compris l`élimination des barrières à l`accès pour les avocats et parajuristes autochtones et de fournir aux avocats et parajuristes les moyens de désservir les clients autochtones d`une façon compétente quant à leur culture.

James Mays

Having worked with SW Ontario Indigenous communities I believe I have a starting point to begin to understand the trauma our greater society has inflicted upon them. Thus, I support fully efforts to reconcile.

Gerard Paul Charette

Another thing that sounds great. But what does it mean? What does this have to do with the LSO’s statutory mandate? It’s probably only indirectly related if it is at all related. Lawyers and law firms can develop their own projects as they see fit, without LSO’s intrusiveness.

Yavar Hameed

I support the implementation of the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, (see: The Call to Action raises issues that are of direct relevance to lawyers and law students in Ontario. Issues of relevance include: (1) legal education; (2) strategic focus in responding to challenges of aboriginal offenders in the criminal justice system; and (3) legal advocacy for aboriginal communities affected by injustice of colonialism. On point #1, law schools already have aboriginal law courses – making these mandatory should not only be a collaborative project between the law schools and the LSO, but finding
ways in which practical/ experience-based projects can result from this education could be incentivized by the LSO. On point #2, the LSO clearly has a role in assisting lawyers to build cultural competency in responding to the over-representation of indigenous offenders in the Canadian criminal justice system through mandatory continuing education and programming in this area. I think that this TRC programming/ training should be made mandatory for all lawyers, in addition to EDI training. On point #3, in conjunction with point #1 (and otherwise), law schools should provide options for lawyers to return to their communities to practice and to provide non-Indigenous lawyers to act as supports for communities seeking to bring legal challenge for historical injustice.






D. Jared Brown

Systemic barriers that proveably, and unnecessarily impact on any community, including indigenous Licensees should be addressed (such as the Good Character requirement). If the requirement is proveably and unnecessarily impacting any single community, the requirement should be removed for all individuals without exception. The LSO should ensure equality of opportunity and equal application of requirements for all individuals.


Deepa Tailor

I support the LSO’s initiatives to recognize and integrate indigenous communities. I see value in integrating indigenous legal perspectives and traditions into our current systems of law. If we want to support indigenous communities we need lawyers who can render services to those communities. The LSO should consider lowering the barrier to entry for lawyers who will provide services to indigenous communities.


Tanya Walker

As a current member of the LSO’s Equity and Indigenous Affairs Committee, I am committed to ensuring that issues affecting Indigenous licensees continue to be addressed as a part of the committee’s mandate.

In particular, I believe the LSO should support efforts to appoint Indigenous judges and adjudicators in Ontario, and continue to recognize Indigenous legal traditions.

I also believe that the LSO should continue to partner and consult with Indigenous groups to better understand how the LSO can contribute to creating greater space for and recognition of Indigenous traditions, and develop a deeper understanding of how different legal traditions can co-exist effectively. In particular, the LSO should make a concerted effort to include members of the Indigenous community in committee meetings and/or appoint Indigenous representatives as de facto members of the Convocation committees, task forces and working groups. This should include engaging with Indigenous communities across the province, whether by visiting those communities or consulting with them through the use of video and teleconferencing.


Douglas W. Judson

I work extensively with First Nation communities. As our profession comes to terms with its own history of colonialism and exclusion and responds to the Calls to Action set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, I would like to see the LSO take a leadership role in recognizing and integrating Indigenous legal perspectives, traditions, and languages into our systems of law and legal institutions.


Rene Larson

LSO has a role in participating in reconciliation efforts in the justice system.  LSO should be supporting to lawyers in finding ways to better service the legal needs of indigenous communities.  By offering low or no cost educational programs to lawyers, LSO can do its part in Ontario’s responsibilities to implement reconciliation.


Ryan Alford

One aspect of this issue that deserves more attention is that access to justice for indigenous communities requires a substantial increase in the number of indigenous lawyers and licencees interested in working with indigenous communities.  While law facuties and universities are doing their part, LSO should consider what it can do to lower barriers to entry for those from and who would like to serve indigenous communities.  


Orlando Da Silva, LSM

We must recognize that the LSO, as an institution, is part of a larger societal obligation to promote reconciliation with Indigenous communities across Ontario. I would like to see the LSO continue the work commenced, most visibly, by former Treasurer Janet Minor, and continue its outreach to Indigenous Communities across the province to remind them that the Law Society of Ontario, is their society too.


Claire Wilkinson

The LSO has an obligation to support reconciliation, including supporting access to justice initiatives, and encouraging increased enrollment in law schools for indigenous populations.


Antoine L Collins

Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is a growing priority for the country and should be a priority for our profession. I believe we must all work together on this issue, including through: ongoing outreach to indigenous communities, ensuring access to justice and encouraging indigenous enrollment in our law school initiatives.


Barbara Murchie

I support the current LSO initiatives. At the Tribunal, we are in the process of changing our rules to better provide accommodation for all vulnerable witnesses.


Isfahan Merali

I am unequivocally committed to reconciliation with Indigenous communities. I was honoured to be one of the few Benchers to sit on the Indigenous Review Panel that worked on ground-breaking recommendations to improve the LSO’s regulatory and hearing processes to be more inclusive and accessible to Indigenous communities. This is a key priority for me in my current role as Vice-Chair of the Equity and Indigenous Issues Committee.


John F. Fagan

Is there anything that The Law Society can and should be doing to help ensure that the project of the new law school at Lakehead University succeeds? Are new lawyers from, and serving, indigenous communities, able to obtain adequate mentoring? (Indeed, arranging for adequate mentoring for new lawyers in general seems to need more Law Society attention.) More generally, what can those in the legal profession do to assist the people of the indigenous communities of Ontario to be better heard? I would wish, as a bencher, to try to assist in this area. In this connection, for starters, have we ever acknowledged, and celebrated, as a group, the finite number of lawyers from the indigenous communities of Ontario (and of Canada in general) who have been toiling in the vineyards as such for the last forty years or so?


Teresa Donnelly

I am committed to reconciliation and support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. I support the work of the Indigenous Advisory Group (IAG) at the LSO, the Indigenous Framework, and the work of the Equity and Indigenous Issues Committee. I was a member of the LSO’s Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous Peoples. I seek to continue to learn about the multi-generational traumatic impact of colonization, discrimination and marginalization on indigenous peoples.


Paul M. Cooper

I believe in reconciliation. The LSO has a duty as part of its mandate to continue to be a leader in reconciliation with Indigenous communities.




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