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This is the "Cultural competence" page of the "Equity portal: Developing an equity strategy in your legal workplace" guide.
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Last Updated: Mar 21, 2017 URL: Print Guide Email Alerts

Cultural competence Print Page

What is cultural competence?

Cultural competence is the requisite knowledge, skills, and capacities to interact and communicate effectively with people of different cultures.

It’s a willingness to ask questions in order to better understand, respect and value others.

As lawyers, our duty to work towards cultural competence is an ethical responsibility that falls under Ch. 6.3-5 of the Code of Professional Conduct and Commentary at Ch. 6.3-5[1], which states: “A lawyer has a special responsibility to respect the requirements of human rights laws in force in Canada, its provinces and territories and, specifically, to honour the obligations enumerated in human rights laws.”

This ethical responsibility is further elaborated by Law Office Management Standard #8 - Equity and Diversity, which reiterates the requirement for lawyers and legal services organizations to “treat all persons in a manner consistent with best practices in human rights law and the Code of Professional Conduct.

In our increasingly diverse society, the competent lawyer must have sound cultural competence and an appreciation of the differing experiences of racialized and Aboriginal peoples.

Rose Voyvodic's paper "Lawyers meet the social context: understanding cultural competence"  identifies the need for cultural competence, and asks how it might be measured by tracing the characteristics of the culturally competent Canadian lawyer. Such a lawyer

  • values an awareness of humans, and oneself, as cultural beings prone to stereotyping;
  • acknowledges the harmful effects of discrimination upon human interaction; and
  • acquires and performs the skills necessary to lessen the effect of these influences in order to serve the pursuit of justice.*

For lawyers, gaining an awareness of cultural difference can improve business development, staff retention, lawyer-client relationships, and quality of legal services.


*(2006) 84:3 Can Bar Rev 563 


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