Canadian Bar Association urges firms to hire more Indigenous lawyers

Brad Regehr, a Cree lawyer from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation is the first Indigenous president of the Canadian Bar Association. Photo supplied.

The first Indigenous person to lead the Canadian Bar Association is urging legal firms to examine inherent bias to improve hiring practices and better represent Canada's population.

Brad Regehr says the association will launch a "tool kit" of resources later this month to help firms recruit more Indigenous lawyers, law school students and administrative staff.

The Winnipeg lawyer who was adopted by a non-Indigenous family as part of the Sixties Scoop says Indigenous people are overrepresented in the justice system due to generational trauma and they face discrimination.

Regehr met his biological grandfather when he was in his mid-20s in law school and learned Jean-Marie Bear was forced to attend residential school in Saskatchewan at age five and suffered abuse there.

Much of what Bear endured remains a mystery but Regehr knows his grandfather was rejected when he tried to register for service in the First World War because he'd contracted tuberculosis in residential school.   

He says his grandfather's experience compelled him to draw attention to racism against Indigenous people, and that passion has grown since the discovery of what's believed to be the remains of 215 children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops.