CPLED’s Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
January 5, 2021
January 5, 2021
As the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLED) plays a key role in the training and preparation of new lawyers, it is essential to prepare lawyers in fairness and equity by developing cultural understanding and humility. CPLED is committed to ensuring equity and inclusion in the new Bar admission program, the Practice Readiness Education Program (PREP).
Historically, Indigenous cultural competency training and education has been an area of deficiency in many sectors including the legal profession. As a result, law societies and law schools across Canada are all working to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action by developing Indigenous cultural competency education which covers Indigenous cultures and peoples, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism.
CPLED believes strongly that the Indigenous lawyers in the community should develop the Indigenous cultural competency training for PREP. Indigenous lawyers from different jurisdictions in Canada were engaged to support CPLED in addressing the TRC Calls to Action 27 and 28. Under these Calls to Action, lawyers must receive appropriate cultural competency training in:
“It was important to address the need to include Indigenous cultural competency content in PREP and not shy away from discussing these topics,” says Dr. Kara Mitchelmore, CEO of CPLED. “We consulted with legal experts, Indigenous lawyers and Advisory Committees, as well as key stakeholders on the program content. We know that we cannot cover all issues or perspectives on these topics, but our goal is to provide a solid starting point.”
Indigenous Advisory Committees and many Indigenous lawyers working within CPLED participating jurisdictions (Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan) were involved from the beginning to develop and review the Indigenous material in the program. The partnership CPLED has developed with these committees and lawyers is ongoing as well as the hire of an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant.
As CPLED continues to work in cultural humility, they will continue to gather feedback from students and other stakeholders and revise the Indigenous cultural competency content as the program evolves. Ongoing education is integral to reconciliation at all levels of the legal community and must contain honest engagement with the issues, and open dialogue among all parties. CPLED is committed to engaging with stakeholders and to opening a dialogue and further the discussion.
During phase one of PREP, students complete an Indigenous Law, Cultures, and Peoples module. The self-directed module touches on relations past and present, on some laws, and stories. The purpose of the module is not to simply review the Aboriginal case law in Canada, but rather for students to be introduced to some Indigenous history, concepts, culture and practices.
In the third phase of PREP when students enter the Virtual Law Firm, their second rotation focuses on Criminal Law and includes an Indigenous client. According to the Department of Justice of Canada statistics, while Indigenous Persons represent approximately three percent of the adult population in Canada, their incarceration rates account for twenty-six percent of Canadian inmates. As future lawyers, PREP students must understand the history of Indigenous People in Canada as well as their responsibilities and duties to the Calls to Action issued by the TRC to effectively represent their clients. The intention is to help students think broadly, understand a different cultural context and how their own unconscious bias could play into a fair outcome.
While working through the legal matter in the Criminal Law rotation students will have the opportunity to become more familiar with Gladue Principles and put them into practice, in a learning environment where they can learn from their successes and challenges. Gladue refers to a right that Aboriginal People have under section 718.2 (e) of the Criminal Code. Gladue attempts to deal with the overrepresentation of Indigenous People incarcerated in Canada while recognizing the racism and systemic discrimination they face in and out of the criminal justice system.
Whether a student’s future practice involves Indigenous clients or not, as engaged members of the community, lawyers have an ongoing obligation to educate themselves on the issues that are relevant to the communities where they live and practise law.