Brad Regehr poses for an undated handout photo. Regehr, the first Indigenous president of the Canadian Bar Association in its 125-year history, says the suffering his grandfather endured at a residential school fuelled his passion to work toward fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and he feels even more emboldened by the recent discovery of what are believed to be the remains of over 200 children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canadian Bar Association, Daniel Crump, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Brad Regehr poses for an undated handout photo. Regehr, the first Indigenous president of the Canadian Bar Association in its 125-year history, says the suffering his grandfather endured at a residential school fuelled his passion to work toward fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and he feels even more emboldened by the recent discovery of what are believed to be the remains of over 200 children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canadian Bar Association, Daniel Crump, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Canadian Bar Association urges firms to hire more Indigenous lawyers

The initiative is part of a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report

The first Indigenous head of the Canadian Bar Association was a law school student in his mid-20s when he met his grandfather and learned he’d survived a “horrible” existence at a residential school in Saskatchewan.

Brad Regehr said much of the trauma Jean-Marie Bear endured at the Sturgeon Landing Residential School starting at age five remained a mystery as part of the country’s colonial legacy, which has weighed heavily on him after the Tk’emlups First Nation said it had found what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at a similar school in Kamloops, B.C.

“My mom told me some stuff but that he wouldn’t talk about it,” Regehr said in an interview.

He said his grandfather was barred from enlisting for service during the Second World War because he’d contracted tuberculosis in the residential school.

Regehr, who is Nehiyaw from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and a lawyer in Winnipeg, would include the limited details of his grandfather’s experience in presentations over the years but said he’d get so emotional that he stopped mentioning them.

“I could barely finish what I was saying,” said Regehr, who was adopted by a non-Indigenous family during the so-called Sixties Scoop and met his biological family, including his birth mother, about five years before her death.

Regehr called on all Canadians to learn more about the harsh reality of federally funded residential schools, which were operated mostly by the Roman Catholic Church starting in the 1870s until the last one closed in the mid-1990s, in order to understand the generational impact on Indigenous people who are overrepresented in the justice and child welfare systems.

He said systemic racism against Indigenous people extends to the legal profession and Indigenous judges, lawyers and articling students have told him they’ve been mistaken for defendants.

“If anyone thinks there isn’t systemic discrimination within this profession then they’re being wilfully blind,” Regehr said, adding change needs to start by firms examining their inherent bias, which could enable them to recruit more Indigenous staff.

He has also called on the federal government to ensure there’s more diversity among judges.

On June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, the nearly 37,000-member Canadian Bar Association will launch a “tool kit” including templates for firms to help guide them toward hiring practices that could attract and retain Indigenous lawyers, articling students and administrative staff.

“It’s to assist firms to go, ‘How do we fix this? What kinds of questions do we need to ask ourselves about our hiring practices?’” he said.

“There is a hunger for these types of resources.”

The initiative is part of a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report.

READ MORE: ‘No road map’ for grieving, healing work after B.C. residential school finding: Chief

Regehr’s one-year term as the first Indigenous president of the bar association since its establishment in 1896 will end in September.

He said his goal is to keep the organization committed to reconciliation efforts as part of the long process ahead to identify unmarked graves of children from residential schools across Canada. That includes the need for the Roman Catholic Church and the federal government to provide documents that could help identify where the remains of children were buried in unmarked graves.

“People are saying ‘Bring the kids home.’ That has to be done. It has to be resourced. We’ve got to get to the bottom of this.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

IndigenousLawyers

Just Posted

(File photo)
Poverty reduction survey identifies 10 poverty themes

Poverty reduction plan will be finalized in July 2021

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says he has no intentions of leaving the Green Party. (House of Commons image)
Island Green MPs have “no intention” of leaving the party after ‘heartbreaking’ departure

Manly, May only remaining Green MPs after Jenica Atwin left for the Liberals over internal disputes

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Justine Keefer’s Cedar Elementary School Grade 6/7 class put together a student paper, as part of a school project. Pictured here Andrew Gregory, left, Felix Leduc, Addison Armstrong, Lucia Walker and Anise Dick. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Cedar Elementary School students create their own newspaper

Grade 6/7 class publishes Wolf Pack News as part of language arts and social studies

Évangeline Laforest and Oscar McClements’ invention La Méduse (the Jellyfish) removes oil from the ocean. The invention was one of 15 out of 700 inventions submitted to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Little Inventors contest. (Cole Schisler photo)
‘Little Inventors’ from Ladysmith showcased in national science challenge

Évangeline Laforest and Oscar McClements were one of 15 finalists in the Little Inventors Challenge

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Lorraine Gibson, 90, received a COVID-19 immunization at the South Surrey Park and Ride vaccination clinic. (File photo: Aaron Hinks)
Surrey has had 25% of B.C.’s total COVID-19 cases

Surrey recorded 4,012 cases in May

Most Read