Thunder Bay

Law Society of Upper Canada visits Sioux Lookout as part of Indigenous issues review

"Listening and learning," was the goal of a special meeting Wednesday with Indian Residential School survivors, Indigenous leaders and members of the community of Sioux Lookout, Ont., says Paul Schabas, the president of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Members of review panel to make recommendations in May 2018 on accommodating Indigenous perspectives

"We're being honest and open that we at the Law Society have a lot to learn from this experience," says Upper Canada Law Society Treasurer Paul Schabas. (theactiongroup.ca)

"Listening and learning," was the goal of a special meeting Wednesday with Indian Residential School survivors, Indigenous leaders and members of the community of Sioux Lookout, Ont., says Paul Schabas, the president of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Currently a review panel, which includes Ovide Mercredi, a lawyer and former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, is looking at how the society handles regulatory matters which involve Indigenous people, complaints and issues.

The examination was prompted after some residential school survivors were disappointed with the results of a disciplinary hearing for Doug Keshen, a lawyer from Kenora, Ontario.

The "productive and engaging" meeting in Sioux Lookout had a profound impact on Schabas.

Hearing 'their hurt, their pain'

"For me, I'm a white man from southern Ontario, from Toronto, and for me, hearing the personal stories is incredibly emotional and moving, to hear about the harm we have done to Indigenous people through the residential schools is very moving and very upsetting," he said.

"I heard a lot about their frustration, their hurt, their pain, their lack of trust and that we have to think about all of those things and we have to think about how we let people tell their stories, to be voices that can be heard."

The information gathered this week in Sioux Lookout will help the law society draft a policy, which will accommodate Indigenous values, customs and perspectives when it deals with complaints in the future, said Schabas.

Review is 'extremely important'

"This work we're doing is extremely important work. We've put a high priority on it at the law society because we see the need to act, and to act proactively, and what we're doing is also consistent with the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."

The review panel is expected to submit a final report in May 2018.

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