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Beginning on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, Alberta lawyers can begin taking the Indigenous Cultural Competency Education called The Path (Law Society of Alberta) – Your Journey Through Indigenous Canada. This course has five modules and takes approximately five hours to complete. Alberta lawyers can do the course all at once or in stages. All active Alberta lawyers have 18 months to complete The Path (Law Society of Alberta) or certify eligibility for an exemption. Inactive lawyers can choose to take The Path (Law Society of Alberta) through the Law Society at no additional cost. Those who complete the program while inactive will meet the requirements of the education upon reinstating to active status.
This mandatory educational requirement was approved at the October 1, 2020 Bencher meeting. Specifics about how to register for The Path (Law Society of Alberta), program details and background information are outlined below.
Read this How-To-Guide for instructions on registration and beginning the course. There are important steps included to help you receive your certificate of completion and ensure your course completion is logged in the Lawyer Portal.
General Information About the Course
The Path (Law Society of Alberta) is an educational course developed by Indigenous consulting firm, NVision Insight Group, Inc., based in Ottawa, Ontario. The course was designed to help Canadians increase their Indigenous cultural understanding in a Canadian context. Topics include:
- the cultural and historical differences between First Nations, Inuit, and Métis;
- the evolution of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous people from pre-contact to yesterday’s headlines;
- stories of social and economic success, reconciliation and resilience;
- understanding intercultural communication in the workplace;
- and much more.
The Law Society’s Indigenous Initiatives Counsel worked with NVision to create additional, Alberta-specific content to enhance the course for Alberta lawyers. The Law Society’s Indigenous Advisory Committee, as well as other Alberta Indigenous law experts, were consulted in the development of this content.
The course includes Inuit, First Nations and Métis stories from coast to coast to coast. All course content has been vetted by First Nations, Inuit and Métis advisors and an Indigenous lawyer. The course addresses various Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action, in particular, #27 which calls upon Canadian law societies to ensure all lawyers have received appropriate cultural competency training, “which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal – Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”
2. Why did the Law Society specifically choose The Path program for Indigenous Cultural Competency Education?
The Path (National) is well-regarded across Canada and has the endorsement of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA).
The Path (National) was vetted by Indigenous lawyers and by our Indigenous Advisory Committee. Within the Law Society, it was also vetted by the Lawyer Competence Committee, and the Law Society’s Indigenous Initiatives Counsel. As with all programming that we either purchase or develop in-house, we consider the resource implications and whether the work is in accordance with our strategic goals.
Taking The Path (Law Society of Alberta)
We have prepared a How-To-Guide for lawyers, that walks you through how to create an account and begin the course. There are important steps included to help you receive your certificate of completion and ensure your course completion is logged in the Lawyer Portal.
The Path (Law Society of Alberta) is a five-hour series of online modules with videos and quizzes. You need a computer or mobile device with speakers or headphones. Closed captioning is also available.
Lawyers can complete the course in segments, allowing for flexibility of learning pace, but must complete the program within the 18-month time frame allotted. You can pause anytime and resume later by logging into your account.
The modules and topics are attached, along with the length of each respective video. Please keep in mind that you will need additional time within each module to take the quizzes. The entire course should take approximately five hours to complete.
Page content — Yes. On returning to the module, you will be asked whether “you want to start at the last page you saw?”
Video — No. You cannot bookmark a specific spot in the video. However, you can restart a video and fast forward to the spot where you left off.
To the right of each lesson is a box with dotted lines. When a lesson is completed successfully, a checkmark displays in the box.
Note: For security purposes, your session will timeout if inactive on the website after three hours. You will need to log back in to resume from the last page you saw.
NVision has reviewed the course for accessibility with those using assistive devices. Much of the content is via video with closed captioning, for which there is also a downloadable narration file.
The written content and quiz questions are accessible with text to voice and screen readers. There are also downloadable resources such as a glossary of terms. These resources are usually PDF files but are also available as Microsoft Word files, upon request. While all core content is covered in the audio narration of the videos, there are also written scripts (one master, and separate files for each video) that describe any breaks in narration or text in the video that is not narrated.
Upon completion of The Path (Law Society of Alberta), you are prompted to input your Member ID, your first and last name, and your email address. This is followed by some short questions about the course. This step must be completed to receive your certificate and to have your course completion recorded correctly in the Lawyer Portal. If you do not complete this step, the Law Society cannot confirm you completed The Path and you could face administrative suspension. Please use the same email address you used to register for the course.
Upon completion of the questions, a certificate of completion is issued through the NVision website. Keep the certificate to verify course completion. NVision will provide the Law Society with monthly reports of course completion. You should not have to produce this certificate unless requested by the Law Society.
There is a new area in the CPD section of the Lawyer Portal for active lawyers that displays your status related to completion of the education. These steps are available in the How-To-Guide. Your status will not be changed to completed automatically. It will take up to a month to update your status to complete as this is a manual process updated monthly by the Law Society. If your status is not updated within a month of course completion, contact Customer Service at the Law Society.
Note: The Law Society will have a record of course completion for inactive lawyers but this cannot be seen in the Lawyer Portal unless the lawyer reinstates. Inactive lawyers should retain a copy of their course completion certificate for verification.
9. If I have previously taken The Path (National), is there a way for me to take only the new Alberta content?
Elements of the Alberta content are incorporated throughout The Path (Law Society of Alberta), in addition to having two focused Alberta modules. If you have previously completed The Path (National) there is no way to complete only the new Alberta content as it is woven throughout the course.
Regardless of exemption eligibility, all Alberta lawyers are encouraged to complete The Path (Law Society of Alberta) as it contains new Alberta-specific content. Before certifying you are eligible for an exemption, check with your law firm or organization as we were advised that some firms/organizations are not permitting exemptions. Details about exemption eligibility are provided in Question 25 and 26.
Individual lawyers are relied on to assess their prior education and experiences in Indigenous cultural competency. If you believe you qualify for an exemption, certify this through the Lawyer Portal.
Read this How-To-Guide to follow the steps for certifying for an exemption through the Lawyer Portal.
Your exemption status is automatically approved and registered in the Lawyer Portal. However, please note that exemptions are subject to a random follow-up to confirm eligibility.
A Law Society staff member may contact you to verify details. The Education department, in consultation with the Law Society’s Indigenous Initiatives Counsel, will be involved in confirming exemption eligibility.
If, as a result of the follow-up, the Law Society determines you are required to take The Path (Law Society of Alberta), you must complete the education in the original 18-month timeframe. For this reason, if you intend to certify that you are exempt, you are encouraged to do so as soon as possible. If you do not complete the course on time, you will face administrative suspension.
Lawyers may request an extension to the 18-month completion requirement of The Path (Law Society of Alberta) through the Lawyer Portal. Extensions may only be requested in the event of maternity/parental leave or medical leave/illness. Please follow the steps provided in this How-To Guide to request an extension.
13. I am not an Alberta lawyer but would like to take The Path (Law Society of Alberta). How do I do so?
The Law Society has negotiated preferred pricing and group rates for non-lawyer members of law firms, organizations, government, educational institutions, and the judiciary. Please contact NVision directly for details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
14. In taking The Path (Law Society of Alberta), I have found some of the content to be upsetting, where can I access support or additional resources?
Throughout The Path (Law Society of Alberta), there are topics covered that occurred in Canada that are disturbing to some viewers. If you need to talk to someone, or need support, we encourage you to reach out to the Alberta Lawyers’ Assistance Society (Assist).
The majority of the course is the work of NVision and the Law Society has purchased the right to provide this material to Alberta lawyers. The Law Society’s Indigenous Initiatives Counsel, along with input from the Indigenous Advisory Committee, worked with the developers of the program to add Indigenous Alberta-specific content, to offer cultural competency specifically for Alberta lawyers.
Feedback about The Path (Law Society of Alberta) course content can be provided in the completion questions at the end of course. Feedback or questions about Alberta-specific content can also be directed to the Law Society’s Education department.
Technical questions about navigating The Path website should be directed to email@example.com.
Follow the password recovery steps available within The Path website.
Your information is stored within the learning management system (LMS) database which is as secure as the password you create. By default, The Path requires a strong password be created, but individuals can create a more complex password. Only course administrators can access any content such as email addresses and they cannot see passwords.
Active lawyers have 18 months to complete The Path (Law Society of Alberta), from April 21, 2021. This applies to all active statuses (e.g., part-time, pro bono, non-practising, out of province, over 50 years) and practice areas.
The 18-month timeline applies to all lawyers who become active or change to active status following the launch of The Path (Law Society of Alberta), effective from the date they become active. For instance, students-at-law called to the Bar following the launch of The Path (Law Society of Alberta) will have 18 months after the effective date of their active lawyer status to complete the program. This date will be displayed in your Lawyer Portal.
There is no additional cost to active or inactive Alberta lawyers to take The Path (Law Society of Alberta) through the Law Society.
20. Am I required to take this training as a part-time, non-practising/not engaged or pro bono lawyer?
Yes, the requirement to complete The Path (Law Society of Alberta) within 18 months applies to all active statuses, regardless of practice area.
21. As an inactive lawyer, can I complete The Path (Law Society of Alberta), and will the Law Society cover the cost?
Inactive lawyers can choose to take The Path (Law Society of Alberta) through the Law Society at no additional cost. Those who complete the program while inactive will meet the requirements of the education upon reinstating to active status.
22. As a suspended lawyer, can I complete The Path (Law Society of Alberta), and will the Law Society cover the cost?
Suspended lawyers can take The Path (Law Society of Alberta), but the costs are not covered by the Law Society. Those who complete the program while suspended will meet the requirements of the education upon reinstating to active status.
23. As a lawyer planning to transfer to Alberta, when can I complete The Path (Law Society of Alberta)?
You will be required to take The Path (Law Society of Alberta) within 18 months of becoming a member of the Law Society of Alberta. While we appreciate some are eager to complete this education, you are not eligible to take the course until you are a member of the Law Society of Alberta. We are unable to track completion of transferring lawyers before you have a Member ID.
24. As a student-at-law, can I complete The Path (Law Society of Alberta) before I am called to the bar?
As an Alberta student-at-law, you are required to take The Path (Law Society of Alberta) within 18-months of being granted active status following your call to the Bar. While we appreciate some are eager to complete this education, you are not eligible to take the course until you are a member of the Law Society. We are unable to track completion of students-at-law before you have a Member ID.
25. I have already taken Indigenous Cultural Competency Education through another provider. Do I still have to take The Path (Law Society of Alberta) delivered by the Law Society?
Some exemptions are available to lawyers who choose to certify they have equivalent Indigenous Cultural Competency Education. However, Alberta lawyers who are exempt are still encouraged to complete The Path (Law Society of Alberta) as it contains Alberta-specific content.
All Alberta Lawyers are encouraged to take The Path (Law Society of Alberta) as it contains Alberta specific content. We recognize that students who completed the 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 CPLED program took the University of Alberta’s Indigenous Canada Course as part of their completion in the program. Lawyers who have completed the Indigenous Canada Course at the University of Alberta are eligible to certify they are exempt from taking The Path (Law Society of Alberta) and can choose to certify an exemption using this ground in their lawyer portal.
All Alberta lawyers are encouraged to take The Path (Law Society of Alberta) as it contains Alberta specific content. While completion of the Practice Readiness Education Program (PREP) was not one of the original exemption grounds, since the launch of The Path the Law Society has reviewed PREP content and determined the education sufficiently addresses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #27. Rather than ask each lawyer who completed PREP in Alberta to take steps to certify an exemption through the lawyer portal, the Law Society will automatically change the status for these lawyers so that they are exempt from the requirement to complete The Path. The automatic change in status does not apply to lawyers who completed PREP outside Alberta; these lawyers who choose to certify they are exempt will need to take steps to certify their exemption through the lawyer portal.
Lawyers who have completed PREP in Alberta but choose to take The Path will have their statuses changed to “completed” once NVision notifies the Law Society of the course completion.
28. What are the exemptions if I choose to certify I have equivalent Indigenous Cultural Competency Education?
Alberta lawyers who have completed The Path (National) through the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) or another organization, or who have completed the Indigenous Canada program through the University of Alberta, are considered to meet the education requirements and may choose to certify that they are exempt from taking The Path (Law Society of Alberta) through the Law Society.
We also understand that lawyers could receive Indigenous education in many other ways, and this adds complexity to making exemptions. We know others have experiences with Aboriginal law and Indigenous law or legal traditions. This experience may also be gained through personal cultural experiences and Indigenous status or ancestry. While the Law Society will not pre-emptively evaluate or accredit individual programs or experiences, lawyers may choose to certify that they are exempt based on the third ground, that they have other previous education or knowledge that sufficiently addresses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #27. Lawyers who certify they are exempt under this ground must ensure that their previous education or knowledge included training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism. As well, it should be sufficient to address Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action #27 which includes:
- History and legacy of residential schools
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Treaties and Aboriginal rights
- Indigenous law (Indigenous legal traditions)
- Aboriginal-Crown relations
Lawyers may want to review the modules and topics addressed in The Path, outlined at question 5, when self-assessing whether they have previous education or knowledge that sufficiently addresses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #27.
29. I have already taken The Path (National) through another organization. Will I be reimbursed for this expense?
Alberta lawyers who have completed The Path (National) through other organizations or learning institutions will not be reimbursed for the cost of the program.
As per the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta (see Rules 67.4), lawyers who do not complete the Indigenous education within the 18 months will be administratively suspended.
Approval of Mandatory Education
32. Why has the Law Society of Alberta mandated Indigenous Cultural Competency education for all active Alberta Lawyers?
The decision to mandate education is integral to our commitment and obligation to respond to the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action, in particular, #27 which calls upon Canadian law societies to ensure all lawyer receive Indigenous cultural awareness training. This decision is also consistent with our 2020 – 2024 Strategic Plan, where we have made Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, along with Lawyer Competence, two of the four strategic goals.
While in many contexts we do believe lawyers should exercise their own judgement when choosing education for their own professional development, there are some competencies where it is appropriate that the Law Society mandate education. Indigenous cultural competency is one of those unique areas where mandatory education is important.
Other reasons for the decision can be found in our October Board Recap video.
33. The Law Society suspended the mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirement for Alberta lawyers until 2023, but has now implemented a mandatory education course? Why now?
The Law Society has suspended the mandatory Continuing Professional Development filing requirement for the profession until 2023. When the decision to suspend the CPD filing requirement was first made we also announced that we would be establishing an Indigenous Cultural Competency Program for all Alberta lawyers.
We always anticipated launching the Indigenous Cultural Competency Education while we developed the new competence program. The Lawyer Competence Committee and the Indigenous Advisory Committee worked with Law Society staff to create a competence program that focuses on Indigenous issues that meaningfully address our obligation arising from the TRC Calls to Action.
Providing Alberta lawyers with shared Indigenous Cultural Competency Education is part of our shared social responsibility to educate ourselves on issues relevant to the communities where we live and practise law.
34. We are amid a pandemic where lawyers may be struggling financially. Is this really a priority given the current economic uncertainty?
We recognize that the cost of professional development and time constraints can be a barrier for some, so there will be no additional cost to active or inactive Alberta lawyers to take The Path (Law Society of Alberta). Lawyers have at least 18 months to complete the five hours of education. Additionally, lawyers can spread out the five hours as the education can be done in segments, allowing lawyers to set their own learning pace.
Whether a lawyer’s practice involves Indigenous clients or not, lawyers have an ongoing obligation to educate themselves on the issues that are relevant to the communities where they live and practise law.
We know Indigenous people are over-represented in the justice system. Alberta has one of the largest Indigenous populations in the country. The Path (Law Society of Alberta) will allow Alberta lawyers to gain a basic understanding of Indigenous history and issues in Canada, and Alberta.
Work is currently underway to rebuild a CPD model that aspires to empower and equip lawyers to provide the best legal services they can to Albertans. Our goal with rebuilding the CPD program is to establish a program that considers experience, existing education programs and stage of career. We also know that many firms and organizations have developed CPD programming for lawyers.
While in many contexts we believe lawyers should exercise their own judgement when choosing education for their own professional development, there are some competencies where it is appropriate that the Law Society mandate education.
While Rule 67.4 was amended to allow the Benchers to mandate specific continuing professional development requirements, any future education under this rule would be fully vetted by the Benchers. The Benchers can apply this rule if they deem an area of competency as fundamental to the core of lawyer competency requirements.
At this time, no decisions have been made on any other elements of the new CPD program or any other mandatory education.
38. When will more details be shared about other changes to future professional development requirements?
The Lawyer Licensing and Competence in Alberta report was approved by the Benchers in December 2020. The Law Society has spent time prioritizing the recommendations in the report and is considering potential timelines for implementation. This was a necessary step as we plan to resource this work and develop a comprehensive engagement plan to gather ongoing feedback and input from the profession.
More information about this report is available in this separate FAQ document.