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

The Williams Lake Stampede Association will crown a new queen, and potentially a princess, during the Williams Lake Stampede Royalty coronation on Saturday, June 26. Vying for the title are Miss Williams Lake Lions Kennady Dyck (from left), Miss Peterson Contracting Ltd. Karena Sokolan and Miss MH King Excavating Bayley Cail. (Photos submitted)
New Williams Lake Stampede Queen to be crowned June 26

“It was jump in right away all the way,” Wessels said of getting the program up and running

As the province moves to lift some COVID-19 restrictions, the city of Williams Lake will be opening up its city council meetings to the public, beginning June 22. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Public attendance on the agenda once again for Williams Lake city council meetings

Residents will be permitted to attend meetings in person beginning June 22

The Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society invites residents in 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Quesnel to participate in “Free Your Things” taking place over the Father’s Day weekend. (Mary Forbes photo)
Cariboo Conservation Society co-ordinating “Free Your Things” Father’s Day weekend

Residents can sign up if they have items they want to give away

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake Campus. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake high school teacher valedictorian for TRU virtual graduation ceremonies

Jonathan Harding is graduating with a master of education degree

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

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

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

Most Read