Winnipeg lawyer Brad Regehr has been a CBA member since he first joined as a law student in the 1990s and, after he started working as a lawyer, got involved with the Manitoba branch’s Aboriginal Law Section and subsequently the National Section conferences. Since then, he has served in almost every role in the CBA, both nationally and in the Manitoba branch.
He highly values his membership in the organization and the opportunity to meet other lawyers across the country. One of the many benefits of being a member has been getting to know other lawyers “from coast to coast to coast,” he says. He also sees the CBA as the voice of the legal profession and the best provider of continuing professional development. As incoming vice president, he is committed to the CBA being “the premier provider of CPD for lawyers in Canada.”
Krista Robertson of Mandell Pinder LLP in Vancouver met Regehr when she got involved in the executive of the Aboriginal Law Section when he was in a leadership role. She says his intelligence and commitment, combined with his calm and grounded demeanour, “set a great tone at meetings and teleconferences.”
With respect to membership, Regehr plans to take an active and creative role “in making sure that the CBA is relevant for lawyers. If that means changing some of the services and products it is delivering, then “I want to be involved in that creative thinking,” he says. Listening to lawyers who come from diverse communities will be a big part of that, he adds, as well as focusing on young lawyers. “I’m part of the generation where we joined, and we keep joining because we feel it’s our obligation,” he says, but “there are new generations below us who don’t view it that way.”
Born in the ’60s, Regehr grew up on a street full of kids in a middle-class Winnipeg neighbourhood. A member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, he was adopted at a very young age by a Caucasian family who had three other children. “There were a lot of kids who were adopted, scooped in the ’60s, who experienced horrible circumstances, things that altered their lives forever. I was one of the lucky ones. I got adopted into a loving, caring family.”
Years later, he met his biological mother and discovered she had married and had two more sons with a man who already had four children. Regehr says his family get-togethers now include both his biological and adoptive families. “Some people have family trees,” he says. “I have a family bush.”
Regehr took history and religious studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, where he started to focus as much as possible on Indigenous history. He also took courses in environmental resource studies to get academic exposure to those issues.
Law was not Regehr’s first choice when it came to choosing a career. He originally planned to become a firefighter, but poor eyesight made that impossible. He then considered becoming a teacher, but at that time, the waiting lists for teachers’ college were extremely long. Serendipitously, a friend at a part-time job happened to show him the LSAT book, which piqued his interest and changed the trajectory of his life. He moved back to Winnipeg and got his law degree, which was the right choice, he says. In addition to being interested in environmental issues, “I really wanted to focus my career on working with and for Indigenous people.”
His summer job during law school was working for a First Nation, doing historical research and some legal research on its land claim. He articled for Pitblado & Hoskin (now Pitblado) and worked there for several months before an opportunity came up to work for the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee, a Manitoba First Nation organization, for the next few years. He subsequently went back into private practice at Winnipeg mid-sized firm D’Arcy & Deacon for 16 years.
In 2017, he opened the Winnipeg office of Calgary-based Maurice Law, which serves mostly First Nations clients. In 22 years of practice, Regehr has practised aboriginal law, corporate/commercial law, civil litigation, and administrative law. He was part of the legal team that successfully defended a challenge to a First Nation’s tax laws in the Federal court, Trial Division—the first litigation involving the First Nations Fiscal Management Act.
Regehr says his favourite thing about practising law is working with his clients. “Meeting with them, talking with them, representing their interests. What I’ve found with my Indigenous clients is that there is quite a bit of discussion and back and forth on issues. And I just love the way it works. It’s personally rewarding, and I’ve learned so much from my clients.”
As well as his legal practice and CBA involvement, Regehr also manages to juggle a busy personal life. He has one son who is in his 20s and two sons, 12 and 14, with his life partner Nalini Reddy, a Pitblado immigration lawyer. Regehr has coached soccer and baseball Little League sports teams, and in his spare time, he belongs to a “Dad’s Book Club” with other fathers of sons who play hockey. “We don’t read books. Well, if you count menus as books, then yes we do,” he jokes.
Regehr is also a thespian. He and Reddy have both been involved for years with the Lawyers Play, a Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and Manitoba Bar Association joint production that raises money for the Theatre Centre. The actors are all lawyers, judges, articling students, and law students who work with professional directors, choreographers, and stage managers.
Regehr, currently on the Theatre Centre’s board of directors, was asked to continue for another two years. But he had to decline. Once he becomes CBA president, he will have to spend some time on his practice in addition to his focus on the CBA. “Everything else will just have to be put to the side.”