President’s Message: Introduction of Mandatory Indigenous Cultural Competency Training

October 6, 2020

In February, we suspended the mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) filing requirement for the profession for the years 2020 and 2021. This will allow us to rebuild a competence model that aspires to empower and equip lawyers to provide the best legal services they can to all Albertans.

Our goal with rebuilding the CPD program is to establish a program that considers experience and existing education programs. A modern and dynamic competence framework will take time to build and that is why we have created this space to cultivate a new era of lawyer competency.

As a first step in this work, the Law Society of Alberta Board (also known as Benchers) approved the introduction of mandatory Indigenous Cultural Competency training for all active Alberta lawyers beginning in early 2021.

This decision was thoughtfully debated by the Benchers at the October Board meeting. As well, this decision to mandate training is integral to our commitment and obligation to respond to the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action. This decision is also consistent with our Strategic Plan for 2020-2024, where we have made Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, along with Lawyer Competence, two of the four pillars.

Whether a lawyer’s practice involves Indigenous clients or not, the Benchers believe all Alberta lawyers, as key contributors to the socio-economic fabric of society, and in particular, the justice system, have an obligation to share a baseline understanding of how Indigenous clients experience the law in our province and across Canada.

While in many contexts we do believe lawyers should exercise their own judgement when choosing training for their own professional development, there are some competencies where it is appropriate that the Law Society mandate training. Indigenous Cultural Competency is one of those unique areas where mandatory training is important.

Earlier this year, the Lawyer Competence Committee and the Indigenous Advisory Committee worked with Law Society staff to create competence programs for 2021 which focused on Indigenous issues that meaningfully address our obligation arising from the TRC Calls to Action.

The approved mandatory Indigenous Cultural Competency training selected is called The Path. The Law Society is working with the developers of The Path program to create Alberta specific content, with the intention of offering an educational tool specifically for Alberta lawyers.

We recognize that the cost of professional development and time constraints can be a barrier for some, so the Law Society will cover the cost of this training for all active Alberta lawyers. Lawyers will have at least 18 months to complete the 6 hours of training. Additionally, lawyers can spread out the 6 hours as the training can be done in segments, allowing lawyers to set their own learning pace.

We know the profession will have many questions about this decision and about the training itself. We have created an FAQ to provide more information.

While the Law Society is considering some exemptions for lawyers who may meet specific criteria, those decisions are still being finalized. More detailed information about the program will be shared in the coming months.

We look forward to sharing more information about the implementation of this program in early 2021.