This month’s spotlight is on longtime CLEBC contributor Rhaea Bailey.
Rhaea is a Métis lawyer who practised family law, child protection law, and Indigenous law before her current position as the Manager of Indigenous Services at the Legal Services Society of BC.
How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
I first got involved with CLEBC in 2012 when I was asked to join the planning committee for a child protection course entitled Child Protection: A Family Focused Approach. I was really honored to have been asked to participate on this committee, as I was relatively new to the practice of family and child protection law. It was a very valuable experience.
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
CLEBC held its first Cultural Competency for Lawyers course this September and I was so pleased to be able to contribute to the session on lawyering for reconciliation. I am currently working with CLEBC on their Gladue Submissions course on November 15 & 16. This two-day course will explore the history of Gladue, its application since coming into force, and the current state of the law. It will also cover the context and meaning of Gladue reports and how to obtain them, while providing lawyers with the opportunity to practice making effective Gladue submissions with or without a Gladue report.
Thank you very much for contributing to our Cultural Competency for Lawyers and Gladue Submissions courses. For you, what does cultural competency mean and what would a world in which lawyers are culturally competent look like?
To me, cultural competency means being able to really listen and understand another person’s values, beliefs, needs and priorities. It requires humility and an open mind. My hope is for a world where lawyers ensure they create culturally safe spaces for their clients. In this world, lawyers would be client centered and responsive to their client’s social, political, linguistic, economic, and spiritual realities.
Tell us more about your work at Legal Services Society (LSS) as the Manager of Indigenous Services. What do you hope will be the impact of your work there?
I manage the Indigenous services department and our team includes ten staff plus me. We are part of the new Indigenous Services Division at LSS, which was created on June 21, 2018. The Indigenous services department’s goal is to improve access to justice for Indigenous people through our work at legal aid. My portfolio includes:
- designing, developing, and managing Indigenous services at LSS;
- consulting with Indigenous people and communities on legal needs;
- coordinating legal aid services for Indigenous people across BC; and
- providing advice to LSS management and the LSS Board on policy, administration, and management issues affecting Indigenous services.
I joined LSS because I believe that working for this organization will provide me with an opportunity to advance access to justice for Indigenous people. I hope to make a positive difference to the way Indigenous people experience the justice system.
Prior to LSS, you practised Indigenous law at a firm. What inspired your transition?
I really enjoyed being a private practitioner, but I was interested in finding new ways to make a difference. I have always valued the contribution LSS makes to improving access to justice and when LSS posted my position, I took advantage of the opportunity.
How do the rewards and challenges differ between practising at a non-profit legal aid organization and a private practice firm?
Both experiences have been incredibly valuable and have allowed me to grow in different ways. Practising at a firm helped me become an effective and efficient advocate on the billable hour. I got to work on diverse legal issues and legal arguments as well as practise in different parts of the country, which I loved! The challenge with private practice is that it requires a substantial time investment, which meant many long days and late nights at the office.
At LSS, I am able to be creative in ways that I was not able to be in my work as a litigator. I get to participate in justice initiatives that I would never had an opportunity to do so prior to joining LSS. It is very rewarding work, which has allowed me to create a better work-life balance. I also really enjoy the people I work with. However, I do miss being in court!
What has your experience been like in the legal profession as a lawyer who is Métis?
It is a privilege to practise law and I am honored to be able to contribute an Indigenous perspective on issues that affect Indigenous people in this country. Overall, my experience in the legal profession has been positive, but I know there is still a lot of work to be done to address the barriers that Indigenous lawyers and law students face in this profession.
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about my family, travel, and the environment.