When Leslie Anne St. Amour has a bow in her hand, the rest of the world goes silent. The associate at Durant Barristers isn’t thinking about a case or the job market or the ongoing pandemic. Instead, she’s locked in on making a perfect crescent shape with the drawn string — then on the arrow flying away from her traditional bow at close to 240 kilometres per hour. “It’s like throwing a baseball: you learn to judge the arc without needing to line up your hand with the target,” she says. “But you have to be really centred in what you’re doing or it’s just not going to work.”
Leslie Anne St. Amour
The 27-year-old has been shooting for most of her life. Her father, a member of the Bonnechere Algonquin First Nation, introduced St. Amour and her older brother to archery when they were three or four, teaching them to hit a target in their Ottawa Valley backyard with a kid-sized bow. At eight, St. Amour began taking part in tournaments, though most of the time she was the only girl in her age category. “The running joke is that I’d win every tournament, no matter how bad I’d do,” she laughs. “The Hunger Games is probably the best thing that happened to women’s archery — there was a huge jump in interest from girls.”
That hasn’t entirely translated into enlightened male competitors; St. Amour still fields her share of unsolicited advice and weak jokes about shooting like a girl. She competes less often now, showing up to a few competitions a year, mostly in Ottawa and Kingston. But she sees the sport as an invaluable training ground for pushing back against gendered stereotypes and expectations, which has helped her in law school and in her civil-litigation practice. “People tell women not to let men interrupt us at work, not to let men make assumptions about our capabilities, but it can be so hard in that moment to push back,” she says. “Archery was an opportunity where, whether or not I wanted it, I learned to do those things.” At a club or in a courtroom, with a bow or a barbed comment, practice really does make perfect.