Legal Aid BC congratulates three staff lawyers on their election to the Law Society of BC Benchers. Indigenous Services Manager Katrina Harry, Managing Lawyer of the Parents Legal Centre in Campbell River Brian Dybwad and Kamloops Parents Legal Centre Managing Lawyer Kim Carter now make up 12% of the total number of Benchers. Katrina and Brian are among an unprecedented 5 of 25 (20%) of Indigenous lawyers elected. The Law Society of BC has had only two Indigenous benchers in its 137 years.
Benchers are governors of the legal profession in the province and address matters of legal education, disciplinary actions and protect the public interest in client-lawyer relations.
LABC CEO Mark Benton said, “In recent years, the Law Society has embarked on strategies that will shape the future of the legal profession. The success of these initiatives will be enhanced by Benchers who are familiar with the reality of how people experience legal problems, understand the social context related to those problems, and are good systems thinkers. Each of these Legal Aid BC staff lawyers has the experience, the commitment, the demonstrated skill and the systemic perspective to support this important work.”
Katrina, member of the Shuswap Nation, manages LABC’s 10 Parents Legal Centres, which provide legal and other support to families at any stage of a child removal process. She said as a Bencher she will bring issues forward from a different perspective – that of marginalized people like legal aid clients. “You have to understand what the barriers to access to justice are, in order to be able to remove them,” she explained. “The types of clients I’ve worked with make me well equipped to speak to the day-to-day legal issues that British Columbians are facing.”
Brian likewise sees an opportunity to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion among the benchers. He is a member and Hereditary Chief of the Gitxsan Nation. “There’s a whole number of issues that have popped up over the past couple of years, from an Indigenous standpoint, which ranges from Truth and Reconciliation to the new federal legislation, the Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families; through to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry through to Every Child Matters; and, most recently, of course, we’ve seen the Orange Shirt Day become a going concern.”
Kim was re-elected after a byelection in June. As a racialized female lawyer, she said it is important for young lawyers to know that they, too, can achieve positions where decisions are being made. "I firmly believe that fully understanding the issues, whether it be through lived experience or working in an area, is important to address issues such as access to justice, mental health in our profession, and the importance of EDI and Truth and Reconciliation."