Ovide Mercredi reviews Law Society of Upper Canada's relations with Indigenous people
Regulatory body for lawyers in Ont. launches review after complaints from residential school survivors
A former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations will help the Law Society of Upper Canada examine the way it deals with Indigenous people.
Ovide Mercredi was appointed earlier this summer as an independent reviewer, working with a review panel to look at way the Law Society "addresses regulatory matters involving Indigenous people, complaints and issues."
The work could have wide-ranging implications for the entire legal community, including the courts, said Paul Schabas, the treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, in an interview with CBC News on Monday.
- Law society discovers 'systemic weaknesses' in protecting Indigenous people from unscrupulous lawyers
- Court monitor finds 'no concerns' about Kenora, Ont., lawyer Doug Keshen; complaint hearings continue
- Ontario lawyer begins defence in misconduct hearings involving residential school clients
"We may be talking about rules of evidence; about how to interview people; what's admissible; what isn't; how to conduct examinations; cross-examinations; how to conduct interviews at the earlier stages — that's all part of the review," Schabas said.
The review was prompted after some residential school survivors were disappointed with the results a disciplinary hearing for Doug Keshen, a lawyer in Kenora, Ont.
'A lot to learn'
The proceedings took nearly a year and came to an abrupt end in April when Keshen and the law society agreed to a separate process that will see Keshen's work regularly reviewed by the regulatory body.
"Following the Keshen case, it was apparent to me that we had a lot to learn and we had a lot of work to do to improve how we handle those kinds of matters," Schabas said.
At its meeting last week, the Assembly of First Nations cited the Keshen case in its resolution calling for an independent, national review of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, to deal with outstanding concerns of survivors.
Schabas said the law society's work is more broad in scope and he hopes it would compliment a national review, if it were to go ahead.
"My review panel is not strictly limited to the residential school settlement or cases involving that, it's looking more broadly at how we as a regulator...can deal with Indigenous issues in whatever context they may arise," he said.
Recommendations from the panel and Mercredi's work are expected early in the new year.
"The whole justice system has a lot to learn about how to accommodate Indigenous issues and Indigenous people," Schabas said. "That might transcend what we do at the Law Society."