Cultural training means better services for aboriginal clients

Posted on: Friday, February 4, 2011

Over the past two years, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) and clinic employees have been participating in cultural training that will help them provide more effective services to low-income aboriginal Ontarians.

More than 500 LAO and clinic employees across the province have participated in the aboriginal competency training since LAO began offering it in 2009. Sessions held in the past few months have been led by Aboriginal Policy Counsel, Christa Big Canoe, who delivered a wealth of information on a range of cultural, historical and legal topics affecting aboriginal clients.

The most recent training sessions were held in January in Toronto at the Native Canadian Cultural Centre. Staff gained a more solid understanding of aboriginal history, customs and spiritual values, current issues, legal approaches and barriers to equality through a mix of presentations, group work, short videos and interactive music and drumming sessions. Guest speakers included Brenda MacIntyre, Juno-award winning singer, drummer and healer, and Dawnis Kennedy, PhD. candidate and expert in Anishinabe law.

The training is part of a larger commitment by LAO to enhance access to justice for aboriginal clients across Ontario. The goal of LAO’s Aboriginal Justice Strategy (AJS) is to achieve measurable improvements in legal aid services for aboriginal people. The strategy aims to improve aboriginal representation within LAO and LAO’s advisory systems, increase accessibility to aboriginal legal representation and provide information to legal workers about the unique needs of aboriginal clients. LAO also plans to improve service on aboriginal-specific legal issues and address the role LAO plays in supporting aboriginal-specific processes. Legal Aid Ontario is currently implementing Gladue panel standards for the criminal law panel.

Read more about LAO’s Aboriginal Justice Strategy, or services for aboriginal clients.

“This training has been very informative and interesting. It made me more aware of the difficulties and challenges that aboriginal Ontarians face on a daily basis, and helped me to develop a better understanding of current issues.”
Ching Yuen Kitchen, Lawyer/Manager Newmarket Family Law Service Centre.