Alberta Lawyers Fight Mandatory Professional Development Training of a ‘Political, Cultural’ Nature

A group of 50 Alberta lawyers has forced a special meeting to take place in objection to a new rule that lets the Law Society of Alberta (LSA) dictate the professional development courses a lawyer must take, on the threat of suspension for non-compliance.

The lawyers petitioned for a member vote on a new regulation, Rule 67.4, which allows the LSA to impose specific courses as part of mandatory professional development training. Lawyers will vote on the rule at the Feb. 6 meeting.

However, even if the majority of lawyers vote in favour of repealing the rule, the vote is not binding on the LSA’s benchers, but merely a recommendation, says Calgary lawyer Glenn Blackett.

The first course that the LSA mandated, “The Path,” is a five-module online course on “the history and contemporary realities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada.”

The lawyers who spoke to The Epoch Times said the key issue is professional autonomy.

Blackett said lawyers must be allowed to choose which professional development course they would most benefit from, depending on their specific practice and specialties.

While some lawyers may have “robust political reasons” for objecting to Rule 67.4, Blackett suggests that the Legal Profession Act may not give the LSA the “power to mandate specific courses for continuing professional development,” except in rare cases, such as when a lawyer is disciplined for misconduct or ethics violations.

Blackett says it is only incidental that the first professional development mandated course for the province’s roughly 11,000 lawyers has been “cultural training.” While it began as voluntary, it became a mandatory requirement on Oct. 1, 2020.

According to Elizabeth J. Osler, KC, chief executive officer and executive director of the LSA, the issue to be debated is the “authority” of the society to mandate “specific professional development activities for Alberta lawyers in the public interest.”

“We are committed to ensuring a fair and transparent Special Meeting format,” said Osler.

“There were 9,769 active lawyers required to complete The Path by the initial deadline,” she added. “Of those, only 26 lawyers were administratively suspended for failing to complete the requirement and were included on the public notice to the profession. As of today, only 8 of these lawyers remain suspended.”

An information page on the LSA website said The Path was consistent with the 2020-2024 Strategic Plan which made “equity, diversity and inclusion” part of the society’s strategic goals.

The LSA said “Indigenous cultural competency” is one area “where it is appropriate that the Law Society mandate education.”


Some lawyers found The Path to be “cultural and political” in nature, according to an email thread between the 50 signatories to the petition shared with The Epoch Times.

“Finding a legal component to the course was difficult,” said one lawyer. That individual said that giving the LSA power to force members to “take cultural teachings could be abused.”

Cold Lake constitutional lawyer Leighton Grey provided a statement to The Epoch Times saying the LSA’s implementation of Rule 67.4 is based on “political ideology.”

Grey, whose great-grandfather was a chief of the Carry Kettle Band and who has represented thousands of indigenous people in his 30-year law practice, said he completed The Path.

“I found it rife with inaccuracy and skewed by a post-modernist history of indigenous peoples in Canada,” he said.

Blackett also said he found the first training course mandated by the LSA to be “wildly objectionable” and “political indoctrination.”

He said the LSA is falling victim to a “brand of wokeness called ‘decolonization,” which suggests that “Canada’s historical relationship with indigenous communities is largely one of racism and genocide—evils which somehow remain lodged in Canadian law and legal structures.”

He provided examples of content he found troubling.

One portion of The Path referenced the death of 22-year-old Cree man Colton Boushie, who was fatally shot on a rural Saskatchewan farm by its owner, Gerald Stanley. A jury found Stanley not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter in the case.

The verdict “sparked fury and unrest across Canada,” The Path reads. “These and other events have exposed the racism, the discrimination, the unfair treatment and the inequality built into Canadian law, policies, and structures.”

“’Innocent until proven guilty’ is a bedrock legal principle,” said Blackett.

He said a portion of the Path tells lawyers to treat indigenous clients with care, not focusing on their “current circumstances,” but rather their “inter-generational trauma.”

One part of The Path appears to attack Canada’s national anthem, he said. It states, “And when you sing that Canada is our home and native land, are you really celebrating our indigenous past?”

Another example from The Path noted by Blackett states: “Canada’s colonial legacy is still alive. And nowhere is that clearer than in the treatment of Indigenous people within the Canadian Justice system. It’s clear when you look at the overall numbers. While Indigenous people make up about 5% of Canada’s population, they represent 27% of its prison population. The number of incarcerated Indigenous women in federal custody increased more than 75% in the past decade.”

“Correlation is not causation. It also challenges, perhaps validly, the very legitimacy of the justice system,” Blackett said.

The Path is a third-party course produced by Nvision Insight Group, which describes itself as “Canada’s leading Indigenous consulting firm.”

It is majority indigenous-owned, according to its website.

Compulsory Program

Calgary lawyer Roger Song, who initiated the petition, told The Epoch Times he is opposed to the law society dictating which courses will be mandatory.

“The LSA has given themselves the power to impose mandatory education, in the manner, form, and time frame determined by the benchers,” Song said.

“Your license to make a living can be automatically suspended with no hearing” for non-compliance, he said.

Song says the issue for him is the LSA mandating a program that affects professional autonomy. He also has a particular concern with the way the new rule was brought in.

The LSA first carried a motion at its benchers’ meeting on Oct. 1, 2020, to mandate indigenous cultural competency training for all active members.

Two months later, said Song, a motion was carried to adopt Rule 67.4, which gave the LSA the “power to mandate the Indigenous education program and any other education programs as the Benchers shall decide, in its full discretion, on all lawyers under the penalty of automatic suspension, and then relied on R 67.4 to suspend Lawyers if they failed to take Indigenous cultural competency training,” he said.

“This behaviour in law is unlawful,” Song said.

On Jan. 31, the benchers sent a letter to the province’s lawyers asking members to vote against the challenge to Rule 67.4.

The letter stated that the ALS has “no plans for other compulsory programs like The Path,” which was mandated “following the findings and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

The benchers stated the rule “serves the public interest.”

In November 2023, the LSA will hold an election for benchers. Blackett suggests that lawyers who object to the legal system being changed by regulatory force to influence lawyer’s perceptions and conduct should run for election.

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