Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society

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The Many Months of June

The Many Months of June

June is a wonderful month. Many of us associate it with the end of the Canadian school year. The days get warmer, the evenings are long, and flowers are finally beginning to open, along with restaurant patios. Meteorological summer may not begin until June 21st, but most of us start feeling summer as soon as June starts—and summer is very welcome.

Assist is proud to honour June as Pride Month. You will see our Pride banner on our website and on our social media. Why do we honour Pride Month in June? Because Assist is an inclusive program—we support all lawyers, articling students, law students and dependent family members in Alberta, regardless of gender or orientation (or any other identity or characteristic). We recognize that lawyers and students from sexual minority communities face different challenges from straight lawyers and students. We aren’t here to judge the challenges they are facing—they may be better or they may be worse.  They just are. And at Assist, we have professional counsellors and peer supporters who are both Pride community members and allies.

Everyone knows that I am getting a little bit long in the tooth. But when I attended law school in the 1980s, no one in my class was out. I practiced law in a law firm until the mid-1990s and did not know any Alberta lawyers who were out (although I knew several in my firm’s Toronto office.) We discussed rumours that there was a partner at a big law firm who was actually gay but no one knew for sure who it was. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for 2SLGBTQ+ community members to feel like they belonged in a profession where essential elements of their identities were kept hidden.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, female lawyers were a minority, and we were treated differently from our male peers. But at least no one told us, overtly, to try not to be female (as long as we could bring in clients and bill as much or more than our male colleagues). As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we weren’t allowed to wear suits featuring trousers—our difference was highlighted by policies that focused on our gender and requiring us to dress differently and to smile politely when a lawyer identified us as a “sweet young thing sitting in on today’s meeting.” At times we felt welcomed, but not always for the right reasons.

It is imperative that all members of the legal community who can safely and effectively practice law feel welcome in our profession. I am reassured by the strides our profession has made in becoming more welcoming to lawyers who reflect different cultures, identities, origins, and faiths—but we have a way to go yet to be fully inclusive. So, in June, Assist raises the Pride flag. If you are a member of a Pride community, we are here for you. And if you are not a member of a Pride community, we are here for you, too. All are welcome at Assist.

We will be flying the Pride banner all month, but there are other days (and months!) of celebration that we want to honour as well. If you google “Canadian days of recognition,” you will find something for most days. It isn’t possible to recognize all of the special days that could impact Alberta lawyers, articling students and law students. Not to mention that new days continue to be added—it isn’t possible for us to catch them all as they appear.

So, how do we choose what to mention? We look for days that are relevant to lawyer mental health and well-being. Research shows that sexual minority community members experience mental health challenges at higher rates than others, so recognizing that we can provide inclusion and support –for free!—is important.

Assist is proud to support the Centre for Suicide Prevention’s Buddy Up Month during June as well. Buddy Up is a made-in-Alberta program designed to reduce suicide in men. Men die by suicide three times as often as women and some of the cultural underpinnings of historical masculinity can be associated with hiding feelings, including distress. Buddy Up focuses on connecting men with buddies for activities and conversations.

There are many ways to support suicide prevention—and suicide prevention among women and non-binary individuals is just as important. However, given the high suicide rate among men, I would like to share the Buddy Up calendar and invite lawyers and students of all genders to participate in activities that help build meaningful relationships where feelings can be shared: Buddy Up June Challenge (pdf version) (

The Challenge aspect of the Buddy Up June Challenge encourages participants to record their activities and submit entries to win prizes, which is always fun. But even if you can’t commit to doing 16 activities during June, it is good to be mindful of the importance of healthy friendships. You can use this calendar to plan buddy activities with male friends, female friends or non-binary friends. The program focuses on suicide prevention for men, but interacting intentionally with all friends provides support.

I was checking out the CSP’s website for new content while harvesting the Buddy Up Challenge calendar and I found a helpful resource that I didn’t know about. As lawyers and students, we have access to excellent crisis counselling services (1-877-498-6898 and press 0 when the automated system picks up your call to be connected with the counsellor on call), but not all of our friends and family members are part of our program. Please help spread the word that the Talk Suicide 24/7 Crisis Line is available at 1-833-456-4566, and the text 45645 option is available from 2 pm to 10 pm (MDT—it is designed to reflect the Eastern Time Zone.) You can learn more at

Canada will be rolling out a three-digit suicide prevention line: 9-8-8, perhaps as early as November 30, 2023. We will communicate more about this once the timeline is firmed up.

June is also PTSD Awareness Month. Veteran’s Affairs has coordinated a calendar of activities to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder:

The fact that Veterans’ Affairs sponsors this initiative does not mean that PTSD is limited to veterans.  While PTSD was first recognized in service people and veterans, it is now accepted that non-military individuals can also experience PTSD, including lawyers.

As members of the legal profession, we may be exposed to traumatic content in the context of our work. Symptoms of stress and distress can occur from prolonged exposure to clients and files where horrific traumas have occurred, but a single significant trauma can also cause symptoms. And as human beings, we risk exposure to trauma by virtue of being human—being a member of the Law Society or holding a law degree does not exempt us from experiencing stress symptoms after a traumatic event!

You can learn to recognize symptoms of trauma and coping strategies on Assist’s website, and June 27th is PTSD Awareness Day, so please consider wearing a ribbon or doing an activity that day if you can.

The other observation month in June that relates to lawyers and well-being is National Indigenous History Month, which includes National Indigenous People’s Day on June 21, 2023 . Many lawyers now observe Truth and Reconciliation Day on September 30th by wearing orange shirts to recognize the impact of residential schools on Canada’s Indigenous populations. But indigenous history is also important—it is much richer and bigger than recognizing the damage caused by programs which tried to deny indigenous identity.

I was an English major in university and while my minor was officially French, I had just as many Canadian history courses as French courses. And I came away knowing next to nothing about indigenous history. Sure, I suppose I could have chosen to write papers about indigenous history—but if you don’t know anything about a subject, you are unlikely to embrace it as a research topic. Because I am painfully aware of my own educational gap, I am an enthusiastic advocate for improving Canadians’ knowledge about indigenous people apart from just Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion! And we have learned about the importance of acts of reconciliation from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Learning more about Indigenous history can be part of your own reconciliation initiatives. Does this relate to your mental health or well-being? That is a question only you can answer, but we know that reconciliation will foster well-being for Indigenous lawyers and students.

There are so many fun summer events starting to happen in June, but please consider if you can find time to do one action in respect of Pride, Indigenous history, suicide prevention and PTSD awareness. The reality of practicing law in Canada in the twenty-first century is that we will encounter individuals who are from the 2SLGBTQ+ community, who are from Indigenous communities, who are experiencing mental health challenges that could cause suicidal ideation, or who have PTSD. If we are sensitive to who these individuals are, we may be do a better job representing them.

I recently attended a CBA-AB webinar about gender language. I like to think that I am good with language, having an English degree and loving to write, but language about gender and diversity continues to evolve so there is no “one and done.” I learned that asking an individual for their “preferred pronouns” is not as respectful as simply asking what their pronouns are (removing the aspect of preference or choice.) Surely all individuals with whom we interact as lawyers should be treated with dignity and respect.

I learned that if your client uses a name that is different from their legal name but will be attending court proceedings, it is good practice to prepare your client that they will be referred to by a name that they have rejected. Can you imagine having your trial strategy evaporate because your clients is shocked at hearing their deadname and forgets all of your advice?

We know that when we feel competent, we are less stressed, and that feeling competent is linked to subjective well-being. You can enhance your competency dealing with 2SLGBTQ+ clients through Pride activities, clients with PTSD through PTSD awareness activities, clients who are experiencing psychological distress through the Buddy Up program, and Indigenous clients by understanding important but neglected parts of Canadian history.

You don’t have to do it all this year. We will be entering a new era of Continuing Professional Development in Alberta with the opening of the new CPD portal on July 4th—but being aware of educational opportunities outside of conventional resources may fit your plan in subsequent years. And many activities for Pride, Indigenous History Month, Buddy Up Challenge Month, and PTSD Awareness Month are fun as well as educational.

Happy June!