NORTHERN WILDFLOWER: When not to sweep something under the rug

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Walking through the doors of the Faculty of Law last week was very emotional for me.

It was my mother’s birthday and last year on the same day Northern Wildflower was released so I feel like the third of September has a lot of significance for me and I wonder where I will be next year on this day. Oh wait, I’ll still be in law school.

The first day of law school I was reminded that I am not doing this for myself. I am doing this for my grandparents, my children, my mother, my cousin who died too young from her battle with addictions and for the youth of the North.

I was also reminded that I am back to having to do homework and was assigned fifty pages of legal text to read on the first day! Yikes! I’m already learning words like Ratio Decidendi and Exparte, I still don’t really know what they mean, it’s all Latin to me.

There are two streams in the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria, the stream that I am in is the Indigenarum stream where we graduate with a double degree.

It is a world-class one-of-a-kind program I am honoured to be in it. I have already learned so much in these past couple of days at school. We read a graphic novel on the difference between Indigenous law and governance and the common law and had great class discussion on the differences between the two laws.

I received a comment on the first day of school from one of the regular-streamed students who said something along the lines of, “Well we won’t be graduating with the same credentials but…” I had to think about what she said but didn’t question her on it because it got my blood pressure up and it was supposed to be a fun meet and greet, which I’ve never really been any good it by the way, small talk that is.

Did she mean that the Indigenous stream students were not going to graduate at the same level? I wasn’t going to address this problem right then and there and was going to sweep it under the rug but instead one of my classmates, who I casually mentioned it to, said that I should because all too often Indigenous people sweep these types of subtle comments under the rug and don’t address them.

So, still not wanting to make a fuss and abandon my anonymity I told one of my professors my concerns and that maybe the entire law cohort should be made aware of the significance of the program to ensure that no one thought the Indigenous program had different status, higher or lower, and that we were in fact equal to each other. I received a very supportive response where there will be a reconciling and a reminder of some sort addressed within the next few weeks.

On a more positive note, I have met most of my fellow classmates in the Indigenarum program and am excited to work alongside them for the next four years and learn from each other.

There are people from all over Canada here and one person from the North – me – so I am going to try to represent as best I can and provide some insight into the injustices that are happening in the NWT.

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