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

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Whiskey Creek gas station destroyed by fire after camper van explosion

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

New Vancouver Island University chancellor Judith Sayers was sworn in at a virtual ceremony June 17. (Submitted photo)
VIU’s new chancellor seeks innovation and equality in post-secondary education

Judith Sayers officially sworn in as Vancouver Island University chancellor

Craft Brewing and Malting program student Ellie Hadley plans to use her newfound skills and knowledge to set up a distillery in Port Alberni. (PHOTO COURTESY LEE SIMMONS)
Something’s brewing with North Island College’s newest program

Port Alberni grad Ellie Hadley hopes to turn new skills into thriving business

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in South Island parkland

These birds don’t often touch down on their way between northern B.C. and Mexico

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read