New scholarship by CALE/ACEJ Board Member Pooja Parmar
“Reconciliation and Ethical Lawyering: Some Thoughts on Cultural Competence” (2019) Canadian Bar Review
This paper critically examines the turn to cultural competence as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”) Calls to Action 27 and 28. I suggest that an uncritical embrace of cultural competence, as currently understood, is inadequate and might even prove to be counterproductive despite best intentions. While acknowledging that the focus on cultural competence is often driven by genuine commitments to reconciliation within the legal profession in Canada, I outline concerns which show that a limited and deficient conception of cultural competence is unlikely to assist lawyers in representing Indigenous clients better or change Indigenous peoples’ experience with the legal system more broadly. I suggest that the TRC Calls to Action demand a response that centres accountability, and that the legal profession must recognize Calls 27 and 28 as a unique opportunity to innovate and lead by rethinking legal education, competence, and ethical lawyering in a multi-juridical space such as Canada. I conclude with two suggestions for taking this conversation forward.