By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY – Three Fort William citizens are looking forward to their studies in law at Lakehead University after participating in the Aug. 28 Welcome to the Legal Profession Ceremony at the Thunder Bay Courthouse. They were among 79 first-year students who participated in the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law’s annual ceremony.
“Having the opportunity to go to law school so close to my home community of Fort William was definitely a catalyst for this pursuit,” says Fort William’s Jacob McKay. “I have the support of my family, my friends and being close to my land, the bush, the mountain, those are things that are vital to my success. (Lakehead University) is leading the pack in terms of its Indigenous content that it chooses to teach and emphasize, and that is something as well that was a catalyst for coming here.”
Fort William’s Daniel Cox looks forward to working in criminal law or Native governance after completing his studies in law.
“In our country we have the situation where Native people are disproportionately incarcerated,” Cox says. “So I would like to get into criminal defence for Native people. But I am also interested in Native governance, sovereignty, so if my path takes me that way that is always a possibility as well.”
Fort William’s William Waboose Perry appreciates the “strong focus” on Indigenous and environmental law and small town practice at Lakehead University.
“I intend to practice up here and I intend to practice with First Nation communities, particularly focusing on remote communities because of their unequal access to law,” Perry says.
In addition to the three Fort William students, two other First Nation students are also enrolled in the first-year class, which includes 11 Indigenous students in total.
“When I was in my undergraduate career, I did research on Whitesand and I saw that we were flooded in 1942,” says Whitesand’s Joshua Sinoway, whose mother is from Pic Mobert. “It peaked my curiosity because I saw the legal issues and the legal battles to establish a reserve. I didn’t understand for the most part what the documents were saying, and I figured I’d need a legal education to interpret that and here I am.”
Tyendinaga’s Sydney Maracle looks forward to learning more about Indigenous people through her studies at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law.
“At Six Nations, we have the Longhouse ceremony and it is so important to our community,” Maracle says. “I want to embrace that while learning more about Indigenous traditions and peoples. I would just like to learn as much as possible and I believe Lakehead may not give me the full aspect, but it can give me that start to my learning experience.”
The Welcome to the Legal Profession Ceremony was presided over by Justice Bonnie Warkentin for the Superior Court of Justice and Justice Joyce Pelletier for the Ontario Court of Justice. The students were welcomed by Paul Schabas, treasurer with the Law Society of Upper Canada; Rene Larson, president of the Thunder Bay Law Association; Ross Murray, vice-chairman of the Lakehead University Board of Governors; and Bora Laskin Faculty of Law Dean Angelique EagleWoman.
“Our law students, all of them, take three mandatory courses in Aboriginal and Indigenous law and I think we are the only law school in the world that can say that,” EagleWoman says. “We are leading edge in making sure that our law graduates are going to go out and make a difference in reconciliation and in improving the lives of Indigenous people through the law.”