After the initial discovery of 215 graves at a former residential school in Kamloops, BC, the federal government fast-tracked a bill to officially recognize September 30th as Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada. Going forward, this day, September 30th, will be marked as a day to learn and reflect on Canada’s history in this area, and honour the survivors, their descendants, and those who were victims of the residential school system. To show our respect for the Indigenous people, our friends, our neighbours, our office will be closed today.
The creation of a national day of recognition is one of 94 calls to action identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was created in 2007 as part of a class action settlement known as the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
While the province of Alberta declined to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday, the City of Calgary has marked September 30th as an official holiday for city employees on a permanent basis.
There are a number of events planned in Calgary, providing many opportunities for residents to commemorate and reflect on Canada’s residential school history, honour the survivors and remember those who were tragically lost.
The City will be hosting a ceremony at Fort Calgary, however, due to ongoing safety concerns, those who would like to view the ceremony are being asked to do so online here.
The Trellis Society is hosting a discussion of traditional care and kinship featuring “an Elder, a Non-Indigenous ally, a frontline human services worker, a parent, and a youth”.
Mount Royal University will be hosting a number of events including featured guest speakers, a march, and the launch of an Indigenous garden. Learn more here.
The Southern Alberta Insitute of Technology is hosting an online event during which “[r]esidential school survivor Elder Chief Vincent Yellow Old Woman will share his story, take questions from attendees and host a vigil in memory of those who never made it home”. Learn more and register here.
Of the 94 calls to action, #27 addresses the important role legal professionals can play in ensuring justice for Canada’s Indigenous communities:
“We call upon the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”
As an Alberta firm, we are happy to see the Law Society of Alberta officially recognize and commit to this call to action.
At Mincher Koeman, our lawyers are dedicated family law advocates and we have devoted a portion of our practice specifically to working with local Indigenous communities on matters concerning child protection, guardianship applications, and the Kinship Care Program. We have also been working to address the concerns of First Nation communities stemming from the application of the 1983 Supreme Court decision Racine v. Woods, which held that a non-Indigenous foster family should be allowed to adopt an Indigenous child because her attachment to the foster family had superseded her cultural identity. Despite the advancements that the Alberta government has made in prioritizing culture and identify in Indigenous child guardianship matters, this case is still considered to be valid law across Canada notwithstanding society’s and the Canadian government’s recognition that the loss of culture and identity leads to such great harm to Indigenous children and their communities.
Our family lawyers help clients to minimize the impact of this decision on their case where a family member is placed in foster care, to ensure the placement better reflects our society’s current understanding of the importance of maintaining a connection to one’s cultural identity.
Mincher Koeman‘s lawyers feel privileged and honoured to work with the local Alberta Indigenous and First Nations communities, and it forms one of the most gratifying aspects of our practice. We are committed to providing exceptional work for our Indigenous clients as we strive to continue attempts at evolving the law in Canada to catch up with present-day values. If we can be of service regarding a child welfare or guardianship matter, or if your Nation requires information and advice regarding the various governmental funding schemes to address shortfalls in funding for programs and services to address children’s needs, please contact our office to make an appointment to meet with one of our lawyers today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.
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