26 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE THE ROLE OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION The legal profession is British Columbia has good reason to lead the country in reconciliation. With the exception of the Douglas Treaties negotiated with Aboriginal groups on Vancouver Island between 1850 and 1854 and Treaty 8 negotiated with eight First Nations in northeastern British Columbia in 1899, no treaties were signed in British Columbia until 1998. Many First Nations wished to negotiate treaties, but the province refused to recognize Aboriginal title. Therefore, most of British Columbia is unceded Aboriginal land traditionally under the jurisdiction of distinct nations. The process of reconciliation in British Columbia has barely begun. One way to develop transformative reconciliatory practices among the private bar is for law firms, or individual lawyers, to consider adopting, in consultation with willing Aboriginal communities, a Reconciliation Action Plan (“RAP”). The RAP program was initiated by Reconciliation Australia in 2006. Under the RAP program, Reconciliation Australia works with organizations to develop frameworks for organizations to implement their vision for reconciliation.5 A RAP is a document that sets out the commitments an organization will make to contribute to reconciliation. Following the example provided by Reconciliation Australia, the following is a list of reconciliation activities and principles that could be adopted by a law firm in British Columbia (or by individual lawyers) using a RAP framework:6 Recognition • Recognize the residential school legacy comes from a deeper history of colonialism and the taking of Aboriginal land, actions supported by law. • Recognize the unceded traditional territories of B.C. First Nations. • Recognize that Aboriginal peoples possess distinct cultures and identities, and have unique relationships to the land, waters and resources. • Recognize the cultural, linguistic, economic, and geographic barriers that confront Aboriginal people in accessing the legal system and seeking legal redress. • Recognize the over-representation of Aboriginal people in Canadian prisons, and the under-representation of Aboriginal people in the legal profession. Build Cultural Capacity • Provide training on TRC recommendations. • Promote awareness of the historical injustices, rooted in law, that have existed for Aboriginal people in Canada.
Jan Advocate 2017
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