How Administrative Suspensions Can be an Act of Reconciliation
As law students, the writers here on the blog cast a critical eye on a lot of what we see. It is easy to focus on the bad things that you see going on in the world and on all of the shortcomings of the Canadian state and society to address what reconciliation is calling for. This week, we decided to look at some positive things that are happening right now in the news that are pushing reconciliation forward in one way or another.
Last month, we spent some time focusing on the education of law students and lawyers in Alberta. We introduced the ‘PATH: Your Journey Through Indigenous Canada,’ a new course in Indigenous cultural competency which is now a requirement for all practicing lawyers in Alberta. At that time, the deadline to complete the course was nearing, but now, it has passed, and just days ago, the Law Society of Alberta did something very significant. The Law Society of Alberta sent out a notice on November 16, 2022, to all students-at-law, lawyers, directors of other Law Societies, Justices, Judges, Masters, and Clerks of the Court, indicating that those who did not complete the PATH course were administratively suspended, and thus unable to practice law. The notice then went on to name each of the 26 legal professionals publicly.
The action of administratively suspending these legal professionals is incredibly significant, and gives me some hope that the Law Society of Alberta is taking the goals of reconciliation seriously. On the blog, we use the term ‘ReconciliACTION’, but sometimes it is difficult to think of scenarios where we see actions making a difference in the reconciliation process, but I think that this is one of them. Last month we emphasized the importance of the lawyers' role in reconciliation and discussed that their unyielding power can be damaging if not used in positive ways. By introducing administrative suspensions, the Law Society has ensured that there are consequences for lawyers who have made the decision not to do their part for reconciliation. They have taken a sharp, but necessary stance to ensure that those practicing law in this province are more informed of the historical and contemporary realities for Indigenous people in this country.
Being subject to an administrative suspension is obviously a penalty in itself, as it can lead to a loss of income and causes inconvenience in terms of shuffling files to other lawyers. The publication of the 26 names has a punitive effect. The publication of the names could impact their reputations, and impact the way that they are perceived in both the legal sphere, and personal lives.
I don’t have the suspended lawyers’ sides of the story. I don’t know whether it was a conscious decision not to take the course or whether it was simply an oversight. Nevertheless, these lawyers, in my opinion, have failed to complete the obligations that come along with holding the immense powers that lawyers hold in our society. Yes, on the surface they failed to “comply with professional requirements,” but even deeper than that, they failed to play their role in reconciliation.
Until next time,
Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG