You’ve probably seen the old footage by now: our new Justice Minister Jody Wilson- Raybould’s father addressing Pierre Trudeau at a 1983 constitutional conference on Aboriginal issues in Ottawa. Recorded 32 years ago, the footage shows Bill Wilson, then the vice president of the Native Council of Canada, telling the prime minister that he has two daughters. Both want to be lawyers (chuckles from the conference attendees). Both want to be prime minister (more chuckles).
It seemed like a joke then. But Wilson-Raybould, of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation, is arguably getting closer than any Aboriginal woman before her to having a shot at Canada’s top job. And no one is joking. After all, it is 2015.
And so, I consider it excellent timing to share this issue of Precedent with you. Our cover story profiles three outstanding Aboriginal lawyers and the demanding, sometimes overwhelming work they do for Aboriginal peoples, each in a very different sphere of the law. You’ll find out what brought them to this point in their careers and you’ll see the optimism and resilience that keeps them going.
As we researched and edited this story, I was surprised by how much I learned. Among other things, I learned about Gladue reports — biographical documents generated on behalf of Aboriginal offenders in the criminal justice system — and also about a Toronto law firm, founded by non-Aboriginal lawyers, that works exclusively for Aboriginal clients.
It did not surprise me that the lawyers we met for this story are incredibly passionate, dedicated and generally amazing. To capture that energy, we hired Canada’s top portrait photographer Christopher Wahl to take their photos.
This issue is also filled with other incredibly passionate, dedicated and generally amazing lawyers. Did you know that Marie Henein is as passionate about interior design as she is about criminal law? Go take a peek at the newly renovated Henein Hutchison LLP offices to see proof. As for dedication, it’s hard to beat that of Jonathan Hood, who finds the time (and energy) to be a competition lawyer, a dad and an Ironman. And the phrase “generally amazing” only begins to describe Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP partner Patricia Olasker, founder of the annual AIDSbeat fundraiser. Since 1996, Olasker’s passion and dedication to the cause has helped raise $4 million for AIDS research.
By all counts, 2015 was a year marked by change — much of that driven by Toronto lawyers, whose stories I’m always proud to tell. And I, for one, am excited to see what big changes you all have in store for 2016.
Publisher & Editor
Post Script: Calling all amazing lawyers
Speaking of passionate, dedicated and generally amazing lawyers — we’re looking for more! We’re accepting applications for the seventh annual Precedent Setter Awards. Now’s the time to nominate lawyers in their first 10 years of practice who excel at work and in the community: leaders, innovators, envelope-pushers and badasses. Winners will be featured in our 2016 summer issue.
Nominations close January 29, 2016.
More from the winter issue:
Photo of Melissa by Mckenzie James.