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Lawyers vote to keep mandatory Indigenous history training in place at virtual special meeting

Cultural training for lawyers up for debate

Mandatory Indigenous history training for lawyers in Alberta is not going anywhere following a debate and vote held Monday.

The petition to remove said training was defeated.

Nearly 3,500 lawyers attended a virtual special meeting of the Law Society of Alberta, where 2,609 voted to keep in place Rule 67.4, which makes cultural sensitivity training mandatory.

CTV News counted 864 who wanted to see Rule 67.4 repealed.

"Clearly, the issues discussed at the special meeting have captured the attention of many Alberta lawyers and the wider public. Ultimately, we are pleased to see Rule 67.4 affirmed by the profession," said Ken Warren, KC, president of the law society, in a statement.

"This rule is significant for the law society to continue to carry out our duties of self-regulation in the public interest."

Rule 67.4 has been in place since 2020, when the law society board passed it, and all lawyers in Alberta had 18 months to complete the training, or risk suspension.

Currently, eight lawyers remain suspended, according to the law society.

The issue stemmed from 51 lawyers signing a petition stating they opposed the training.

Meanwhile, 400 active lawyers signed a letter saying they support the Indigenous cultural competency requirement.

Katelynn Cave, an Alberta Lawyer and member of the law society, said Monday's vote was emotional.

"It was really emotional to see many people participate and be against this motion and speak out against it. I'm feeling really grateful for the allies that we saw in that room today and just the enormous amount of support that we had," Cave told CTV News.

"The vote showed there is a huge interest in this education and in reconciliation and in moving forward with this type of education."

Cave says response to the training – called The Path – has been overwhelmingly positive.

Cave also says there is still a ways to go to get everyone on board.

"I think there is still room and some work that needs to be done but overall, I think that we are on an excellent path to get the message across to all lawyers, and really to the public as well, that this is something that's important," Cave said.

CTV News reached out to all 51 signatories who signed the petition and heard back from a few.

While they signed the petition, according to the law society, many had completed the training anyway.

Close to 10,000 active lawyers were required to take the training and only a handful didn't, according to a spokesperson for the law society.

"The petition, as I am aware of it, speaks to whether the benchers (an elected group of leadership in the law society) are given under provincial legislation (or should be given) the power to mandate any certain cultural, political and social perspectives as requirements for the continued practice of the profession," lawyer Chad Graham said last week.

"My understanding of the petition is that it is about the independence of the profession and our ability to attract and celebrate diversity in the profession and to support the inclusion of many practitioners."

In a statement, the Law Society of Alberta Benchers said they are grateful for the support shown to Rule 67.4 at Monday's virtual special meeting.

"We have always understood that there is a balance to achieve between setting standards of competence to protect the public interest and allowing lawyers to choose their own continuing professional development," the statement read in part.

"As previously stated, we have not identified other courses that we believe should be mandatory. However, the flexibility granted in Rule 67.4 is critically important so that we can thoughtfully consider whether specific education courses are necessary to protect and advance the public interest."

(With files from Tyson Fedor) Top Stories

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