Inspiring stories connecting future leaders

One hundred lawyers, law students and other interested people attended the Law Society’s Inspiring stories connecting future leaders event on June 16. Aboriginal leaders in the legal profession, including Grand Chief Edward John and Elizabeth Hunt, whose practice focuses on Aboriginal law, shared their own inspirational stories with the audience. Tina Dion, lawyer and President of the Scow Institute, told the audience about the groundbreaking career of now retired Judge Alfred Scow, the first Aboriginal person in BC to graduate from law school, to become a member of the Bar and to be appointed to the Bench.

Photos from Dion told the audience about Scow’s advice to an Aboriginal lawyer considering the Bench. She said he advised, “don’t stop until you get it, and do the best job that you can when you get there.” Judge Scow’s own remarks were met with a spontaneous standing ovation from those who attended.

Hunt talked to the audience about how over the course of her practice she has redefined what success means to her, “I feel that I may not have been a downtown [law firm] success,” said Hunt, “but the bigger success for me lies in the fact that I have become the person that the creator is intending me to be and a parent that is involved in a meaningful way.” She described balancing her part-time practice with two children and how her children think “anyone coming up the driveway is a client and they know to ‘meet, greet and retreat.’”

Chief John told the audience about how, as a UBC law student, he got into a debate with his professor about hearsay evidence and how in his opinion Aboriginal stories should be an exception to the rule. His evidence professor was Beverley McLachlin, now Chief Justice of Canada, who later discussed that very issue in one of the court’s rulings.

Law Society President Glen Ridgway, QC, told the audience about his own interaction as a young lawyer in the court room with Judge Scow, who Ridgway said was respected by the Bar as an outstanding judge. Ridgway reiterated to Judge Scow and the rest of the attendees that the Benchers “have identified retaining Aboriginal lawyers in the legal profession as one of the key objectives in the current strategic plan. This event is part of that,” he said.

Patrick Kelly, who served as an appointed Bencher until late May, told the audience in his closing remarks, “this isn’t the end of the Law Society’s interest in this area. We are working on a number of initiatives and strategies to help retain Aboriginal lawyers.”

The Law Society is undertaking a demographic project to better understand the participation of Aboriginal lawyers. And, as the Society did in 2009 with women in the legal profession, is going to develop a business case for diversity, including the retention and advancement of Aboriginal lawyers.

The event was moderated by the CBC’s Duncan McCue, who was called to the BC Bar in 1998.