Alfred Scow: April 10, 1927 – February 26, 2013
Retired judge Alfred Scow was a trailblazer in the legal profession in British Columbia.
Not only was he the first Aboriginal person ever to graduate from a BC law school, graduating from UBC in 1961, the next year he went on to become the first Aboriginal person to be called to the Bar in BC. In 1971, he broke another barrier and became the first legally trained Aboriginal person to be appointed to the provincial Bench, where he would serve for 23 years.
“Alfred Scow was an inspiration for us all, both inside and outside the Aboriginal community,” said President Art Vertlieb, QC. “He was a trailblazer in so many different ways. He brought so much to his own community, and in doing so, he brought dignity to us all.”
Over the course of his life and groundbreaking career, Scow received numerous honours and distinctions. In 2000 he was awarded the Order of Canada and in 2004, the Order of BC. Despite this, he was always humble. In an interview with Benchers’ Bulletin in 2010, Scow was asked how he felt about being called a “hero” for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
“I don’t know who thinks of me that way,” he said. “Do Indians think of me that way, do white people think of me that way or do I think of me that way? I have never really been consciously thinking of myself as a role model.”
But a role model he was. Aside from his work in the field of law, Scow also served on the management council for UBC’s First Nations House of Learning and was founding president of the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society. In 2006, he co-published a children’s book that told the true story of nine-year-old Scow, who secretly watched his father dance at a potlatch, which was prohibited at the time under the Indian Act. Secret of the Dance was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.