Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Update
The Law Society of Alberta stands against racism and all forms of discrimination. Lawyers, students and members of the public all deserve equal opportunities and fair treatment as guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Unfortunately, we know this is not the reality faced by many in the legal profession. The Law Society has an important role in identifying and addressing issues of racism and discrimination within our regulatory mandate. At the Law Society, we are committed to supporting equity and inclusion in the legal profession and working to ensure that our own processes do not create inequity.
We support lawyers and students pursuing changes that result in equitable treatment. We are seeking opportunities to partner with underrepresented communities in the legal profession to work toward positive change in our profession and in the delivery of legal services. As an example of this work, we are launching a project to collect the experiences of Black Canadians, Indigenous Peoples and People of Colour (BIPOC) in the legal profession so we can listen, learn and identify areas for change within our regulatory mandate. Further details on this project are shared here.
In addition, over the last number of years, the Law Society has been working on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues. Importantly, this work resulted in our articling survey in 2019, which revealed the prevalence of discrimination and harassment experienced during recruitment and articling in Alberta’s legal profession. We recognize that we are in the early stages of modernizing an approach of identifying and addressing harassment, discrimination and other EDI issues and we look forward to working with the profession on this important topic.
We have built some key foundations to help us in this important work. In 2019, the Benchers established the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Lawyer Competence Committee. Some of the initiatives we have already undertaken include:
- creating the role of Indigenous Initiatives Liaison in 2017;
- creating a part-time membership status pilot (with half of the full-time membership fee) for lawyers in private practice in 2019;
- launching a Respectful Workplace Model Policy in October 2019;
- making EDI & Lawyer Competence two of the four pillars of our Strategic Plan for 2020 – 2024;
- working with the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to revise and bolster the discrimination and harassment provisions in the Code of Conduct;
- developing an online process for safe reporting of discrimination and harassment to the Law Society, with plans for further refinements to this process;
- exploring mandatory training for principals, which would include discrimination and harassment and equity training;
- exploring a placement program for articling students experiencing harassment or discrimination in the workplace; and
- developing Indigenous Cultural Competence Training for lawyers as part of the revised Continuing Professional Development program.
In addition, the Benchers, recognizing that wider views would help inform their decision-making, established three Advisory Committees comprised of Alberta lawyers that bring different perspectives to our organization, as follows: the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, the Indigenous Advisory Committee and the Lawyer Competence Advisory Committee. These Committees started their work on EDI and competence initiatives to address issues brought to light by both the articling survey results and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
We will continue to work alongside our Advisory Committees and solicit input from the profession on how we can better fulfill our mandate to protect the public interest through our support of all lawyers and students facing these issues.