Patrick Kelly — leading by listening

Pat KellyImmediately upon his appointment as a Lay Bencher by the provincial government in July 2002, Patrick Kelly began applying the qualities that have marked him as a special person since childhood: a deeply reflective nature, fuelled in equal parts by determination and enthusiasm.

“I found myself on the Special Compensation Fund Committee, immersed in the panel work of reviewing dozens of claims by innocent homeowners for devastating losses arising from the fraudulent actions of former lawyer Martin Wirick,” Patrick recalls. “It was both unnerving and thrilling working alongside experienced Benchers on matters that clearly went to the heart of the Law Society’s mandate to protect the public interest. I was impressed by how quickly the Law Society moved to restore the losses wrongfully suffered by innocent purchasers.”

Patrick Kelly is a member of the Leq:amel First Nation in the Sto:lo Nation (part of the Coast Salish). He grew up at Harrison and Deroche in a family of 11 children, and credits his grandmother, T’esots (also known as Margaret Pennier), as key to his development as a leader. “She was a strong, spiritual person, a gentle but persuasive teacher, and had a very powerful influence on me,” he says.

“When I was 21 she took me aside one day and told me that I had shown the ability to think deeply, along with a good sense of responsibility and heart and to apply those qualities to helping my family and my community. She also told me that I had a responsibility to apply my abilities with humility and patience. She said again and again that, when dealing with issues, I must learn to lead by listening carefully to what people are really saying and then help them find lasting solutions.”

On January 18, 2003, 800 family and community members gathered in the Charlie family longhouse in Chehalis for a traditional Sto:lo naming ceremony. Patrick’s grand-uncle Johnny Leon (Margaret Pennier’s brother) granted Patrick the male version of his grandmother’s traditional name — T’esots’en. A speaker at the ceremony informed Patrick that his name meant to look deep in the heart before speaking to people. Dr. David Suzuki, also a ceremony speaker, reflected on how important the naming tradition was in carrying important values through the generations. Patrick says, “All along, Gramma knew my qualities better than I did. I feel very fortunate to be able to carry on the tradition of her teachings.”

Over the years Patrick has applied his grandmother’s leadership lessons through his executive and board roles with a number of community, non-profit, private and public organizations. Following a term as Executive Director of the BC Chapter of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, he was manager, cultural relations and corporate training in BC Hydro’s Aboriginal Relations department from 1993 through 1997, and served as treaty representative for the Leq:amel First Nation from 1998 to 2001. In March 2001, Patrick became director of strategic planning and communications for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), BC Region — the first aboriginal planning and communications director in INAC’s history. Earlier this year Patrick left INAC and established a consulting practice, applying his skills and experience in community planning, organizational development, facilitation and communication.

“I am very blessed to have a loving and enduring relationship with my wonderful wife of 20 years, Sheila Brown,” Patrick says. “Our blended family also includes five children: Saul, Maggie, Dara, Patrick Jr. and Chelsea.”

Not surprisingly, Patrick has been an active Lay Bencher, serving on numerous committees and panels. In 2006, he was vice-chair of the Equity and Diversity Committee and served on the Practice Standards Committee. He was elected by the other Lay Benchers to serve on the 2007 Executive Committee — assisting the Law Society in addressing strategic issues, establishing priorities for the assignment of Society financial, staff and volunteer resources, and planning Bencher meetings. His committee experience also includes Finance and Planning, Special Compensation Fund, Ethics, Independence and Self-Governance, Regulatory Policy and the Paralegal Task Force.

“I am very pleased,” says Patrick, “to be able to play a small part in helping the Law Society provide an invaluable service in protecting the public interest in the administration of justice in BC, a role I’ve seen clearly and consistently demonstrated by all Benchers.”