Brad Regehr poses for an undated handout photo. Regehr, the first Indigenous president of the Canadian Bar Association in its 125-year history, says the suffering his grandfather endured at a residential school fuelled his passion to work toward fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and he feels even more emboldened by the recent discovery of what are believed to be the remains of over 200 children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canadian Bar Association, Daniel Crump, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Brad Regehr poses for an undated handout photo. Regehr, the first Indigenous president of the Canadian Bar Association in its 125-year history, says the suffering his grandfather endured at a residential school fuelled his passion to work toward fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and he feels even more emboldened by the recent discovery of what are believed to be the remains of over 200 children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canadian Bar Association, Daniel Crump, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Canadian Bar Association urges firms to hire more Indigenous lawyers

The initiative is part of a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report

The first Indigenous head of the Canadian Bar Association was a law school student in his mid-20s when he met his grandfather and learned he’d survived a “horrible” existence at a residential school in Saskatchewan.

Brad Regehr said much of the trauma Jean-Marie Bear endured at the Sturgeon Landing Residential School starting at age five remained a mystery as part of the country’s colonial legacy, which has weighed heavily on him after the Tk’emlups First Nation said it had found what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at a similar school in Kamloops, B.C.

“My mom told me some stuff but that he wouldn’t talk about it,” Regehr said in an interview.

He said his grandfather was barred from enlisting for service during the Second World War because he’d contracted tuberculosis in the residential school.

Regehr, who is Nehiyaw from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and a lawyer in Winnipeg, would include the limited details of his grandfather’s experience in presentations over the years but said he’d get so emotional that he stopped mentioning them.

“I could barely finish what I was saying,” said Regehr, who was adopted by a non-Indigenous family during the so-called Sixties Scoop and met his biological family, including his birth mother, about five years before her death.

Regehr called on all Canadians to learn more about the harsh reality of federally funded residential schools, which were operated mostly by the Roman Catholic Church starting in the 1870s until the last one closed in the mid-1990s, in order to understand the generational impact on Indigenous people who are overrepresented in the justice and child welfare systems.

He said systemic racism against Indigenous people extends to the legal profession and Indigenous judges, lawyers and articling students have told him they’ve been mistaken for defendants.

“If anyone thinks there isn’t systemic discrimination within this profession then they’re being wilfully blind,” Regehr said, adding change needs to start by firms examining their inherent bias, which could enable them to recruit more Indigenous staff.

He has also called on the federal government to ensure there’s more diversity among judges.

On June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, the nearly 37,000-member Canadian Bar Association will launch a “tool kit” including templates for firms to help guide them toward hiring practices that could attract and retain Indigenous lawyers, articling students and administrative staff.

“It’s to assist firms to go, ‘How do we fix this? What kinds of questions do we need to ask ourselves about our hiring practices?’” he said.

“There is a hunger for these types of resources.”

The initiative is part of a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report.

READ MORE: ‘No road map’ for grieving, healing work after B.C. residential school finding: Chief

Regehr’s one-year term as the first Indigenous president of the bar association since its establishment in 1896 will end in September.

He said his goal is to keep the organization committed to reconciliation efforts as part of the long process ahead to identify unmarked graves of children from residential schools across Canada. That includes the need for the Roman Catholic Church and the federal government to provide documents that could help identify where the remains of children were buried in unmarked graves.

“People are saying ‘Bring the kids home.’ That has to be done. It has to be resourced. We’ve got to get to the bottom of this.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

IndigenousLawyers

Just Posted

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

From left: Councillor Lucy Taylor, Councillor Barry Banford, Councillor Bill Haring, Mayor Merlin Blackwell, Councillor Lynne Frizzle, Councillor Lyle Mckenzie and Councillor Shelley Sim. (District of Clearwater photo)
Intersections in Weyerhaeuser community could soon see some changes

A four-way stop and assessment are planned for two intersections in the community.

File photo
Encounter with suspicious man has Vavenby mother concerned

The man was driving a red car and asked her 11-year-old daughter for her address as she walked home.

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Child sex crimes charges against Interior’s top doc won’t impact pandemic response: Dix

Dr. Albert de Villiers is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Interior Health top doctor released on bail after sex crimes charges involving child

Dr. Albert de Villiers was arrested on two Alberta charges in Kelowna on Tuesday

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read