On Monday, November 20th, Level, in partnership with the University of Calgary Faculty of Law (“Faculty of Law”), hosted a powerful reconciliation-focused event on campus at Murray Fraser Hall. The event, titled “Building Better Lawyers: Your Role in Advancing Reconciliation”, invited law students, faculty and local legal professionals to hear from Indigenous leaders about the lived realities of Indigenous peoples, and to gain practical tools for being better allies in order to more effectively advance reconciliation.
"How to be an Ally" panelists (L-R) Kim Younger-Laboucan, Kim Kakakaway, Lee Francoeur, Cindy Provost, and Lisa Del Col
Faculty of Law Dean Ian Holloway provided opening remarks, welcoming the attendees to the law school, acknowledging the Blackfoot territory, and highlighting the importance of the discussions that would be taking place at the event. Following this, the audience was led through a teaching by Blackfoot Elder, Camille Pablo Russell. Mr. Russell engaged the audience in an interactive exercise focused on finding balance in their lives between their mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional selves, using the medicine wheel. His teaching centered on how everyone should embrace the concepts of unconditional love, humbleness, and humility to maintain balance and to live healthy lives. His inspiring teaching resonated with the often-busy audience of law students and legal professionals.
Clockwise: Dean Ian Holloway, Elder Camille Pablo Russell, Level's Executive Director, Brittany Twiss, and Judge Eugene Creighton
Following Mr. Russell’s teaching, the audience heard from Brittany Twiss, Level’s Executive Director. She highlighted that law students and lawyers are best positioned to disrupt the unresponsive justice system, and challenged the audience to actively engage in the process of reconciliation by employing humility, breaking through discomfort, and learning from our mistakes.
The audience then received a moving presentation from Judge Eugene Creighton, who sits for the Calgary Regional Criminal Division of the Provincial Court. Judge Creighton shared his personal journey from the Blood Indian Residential School to the Bench, a journey that was both challenging and inspiring. Judge Creighton urged the audience, especially the law students, to ensure that they all take the time to get to know their clients; to fully understand their histories, their cultures, and their circumstances. He argued that only then will lawyers be able to effectively represent their clients.
Following Judge Creighton was a panel about being a true ally to Indigenous communities. The panel featured some amazing local Indigenous leaders, including Constable Cindy Provost, the Indigenous Strategic Engagement Officer with the Calgary Police Service, Kim Younger-Laboucan, a Diversity and Learning Support Advisor with Indigenous Education at the Calgary Board of Education, Lee Francoeur, a lawyer and member of the Faculty of Law, and Kim Kakakaway, the Coordinator of the Home Fire Program with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary. The panel was moderated by Level’s Director of Programs, Lisa Del Col, and provided the audience with insights and challenges for shifting from a passive form of reconciliation to a more active one. Each of the panelists provided incredible guidance: Mr. Francoeur offered frank and candid advice about being brave and speaking up in order to advance reconciliation in a practical way; Ms. Younger reminded the audience to take the time to listen to the voices of the community, and to engage from a place of cultural humility rather than mere cultural competence; Ms. Kakakaway urged everyone to move from a culture of “helping” Indigenous communities, to walking with them; and Ms. Provost challenged the audience to acknowledge the privilege they carry, and to use it to advance positive change.
Feedback following the event was resoundingly positive. Audience members appreciated the honesty, humility and bravery of the speakers, and benefited greatly from hearing their candid experiences and advice.
Level was honoured to have Phil Fontaine, an early champion of Level's
Indigenous Youth Outreach Program, join us as a special guest for this important event.
Level thanks our program partner, the University of Calgary Faculty of Law, our amazing speakers, and is grateful for the support of our event sponsors, Walsh LLP, MLT Aikins, and McCarthy Tétrault LLP.
Photos by Kenya-Jade Pinto for Level.