The Hon. Frank Iacobucci, retired justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, will speak about the legacy of Indian Residential Schools at Suffolk University Law School on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012.

Children were forcibly removed from their families to attend the Indian Residential Schools in Canada, which were marked by an elevated rate of physical and sexual abuse, overcrowding, poor sanitation and a lack of medical care. Those attending the schools were not allowed to practice their own faiths nor speak their own languages. Survivors of the schools, the last of which closed in 1996, began disclosing stories of abuse in the 1980s and have argued that officials and teachers practiced cultural genocide and ethnocide.

Justice Iacobucci represented the Canadian Federal Government in negotiating the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. This agreement, finalized in 2007, compensated former residential school students and created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission with a mandate “to learn the truth about what happened in the residential schools and to inform all Canadians about what happened in the schools.”

Justice Iacobucci’s lecture was planned by Suffolk Law’s Indian Law and Indigenous Peoples Clinic, which primarily serves the needs of tribal governments and individual Native Americans in the six New England states. The clinic currently is working with a tribal court to draft rules and guidebooks as well as developing materials for a peacemaking court. The clinic may also address issues such as child welfare, environmental violations, and hunting and fishing rights, as well as advocacy of indigenous people's rights at international and regional human rights bodies.

“Like Canada, the United States had a system of Indian boarding schools, which a 1969 federal report called a ‘national tragedy.’” said Law School Dean Camille Nelson, whose office is sponsoring the event. “Justice Iacobucci will help us to understand the significance of the separatist schools that existed throughout North America, and we look forward to learning from his insights about the importance of accepting responsibility and seeking reconciliation.”

After retiring as a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Iacobucci in 2004 joined Torys LLP . He is based in the international law firm’s Toronto office, where, as counsel, he advises government and business on important legal and policy matters. He was awarded the 2009 Justice Medal by the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice.

Justice Iacobucci’s visit will take place from noon-2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 in the first-floor function room at Suffolk University Law School, 120 Tremont St., Boston. Flute player Hawk Henries of the Nipmuck Tribe will also perform at the event.