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Our mission of reconciliation: Reflections on National Aboriginal Day

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National Aboriginal Day (Journée nationale des Autochtones) is a day recognizing and celebrating the cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada. The day was first celebrated in 1996, after it was proclaimed that year by then Governor General Roméo LeBlanc, to be celebrated annually on June 21st. A number of events in Nova Scotia took place on June 21, 2017.

Though National Aboriginal Day calls for celebration and festivity, it also presents an opportunity to reflect on our collective responsibility to advance reconciliation between Indigenous and settler communities. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action #27 and #28 directly entreat law schools and law societies to ensure lawyers are competent and educated in Aboriginal and Indigenous laws and history.

In recent months, the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society has implemented several projects, which include:

  • initiating a pan-Atlantic Truth and Reconciliation team that will advise all Atlantic law societies and law schools on responding to Calls to Action #27 and #28;
  • organizing a blanket exercise to take place in Nova Scotia this September;
  • continuing to develop cultural competence training videos and other education resources in the online Equity Portal, which includes links to truth and reconciliation resources; and
  • supporting the Indigenous Bar Association’s 29th Annual Fall Conference, taking place in Halifax October 19-21, 2017.

However, we recognize these initiatives as the first few steps of a lengthy journey, and acknowledge that meaningful reconciliation requires a deeper institutional commitment than merely establishing a number of programs. As such, we are developing a comprehensive strategic plan, with guidance and support from Mi’kmaq lawyers and leaders, to move forward this critical work.

We at the Society are taking the opportunity of National Aboriginal Day to contemplate how we must undertake the mission of reconciliation. We ask each lawyer in Nova Scotia to allocate a few minutes to ask: What can I do to become a fully engaged participant in the labour of reconciliation? How can I educate myself to become more culturally competent with respect to my Indigenous clients and peers? What small step can I take today to commence that self-education?

On National Aboriginal Day, we ask all legal professionals to celebrate Indigenous peoples without losing sight of the long road of reconciliation that we face.