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Legal Ethics; Government Lawyers; Honour of the Crown; Reconciliation; Indigenous Peoples


The honour of the Crown is recognized as a Canadian constitutional principle that is essential to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. As part of the process of reconciliation, this article argues that the honour of the Crown imposes a special ethical obligation on government lawyers in specific circumstances, which we call the duty of honourable dealing. We situate this duty in the divided literature and case law about whether government lawyers have special ethical obligations and in the two dimensions in which the honour of the Crown applies: the Crown as an institution and the Crown as a collection of public servants in the performance of defined duties. This duty applies when government lawyers are engaging directly with Indigenous peoples and their representatives in negotiation contexts. It requires that engagement in negotiation processes be meaningful, with a candid exchange of positions and views that are carefully and respectfully considered.