2017 - Harriet Matthews Essay

My name is Harriett Mathews, and I am a Cree student from Attawapiskat First Nation. I was raised away from my reserve because for almost twenty years, there was no school in my community. Knowing that the children who lived on the reserve had no access to a proper education, made me value my education more, and moreover, motivated me to strive to change what I saw as an unjust situation. How would I do this? Well, as a child, I was not quite sure how, but I knew that the Prime Minister of Canada was the person who held the most power in the country, so when I was asked at the age of six what I wanted to be when I grew up, I confidently answered “I want to be the Prime Minister.” My teacher was amused by this declaration, and said, “Oh, well you would have to be a lawyer before you could become the Prime Minister!” So that is precisely what I decided I would do. Ever since that day, I have been determined to reach my goal and become a lawyer. This past winter, I finally made it one step closer by accepting my offer of admission to the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Common Law for their Dual JD program Fall/Winter 2017-2018.
My family and my community has supported my dream every step of the way. When I faced challenges throughout my academic career, they helped me to overcome adversity and I hope to give back to them once I have become a Lawyer. Furthermore, I hope to help all Indigenous peoples in my work as a lawyer. In my opinion, education and law have a reciprocal relationship. One cannot exist without the other, nor can one grow or develop for the betterment of society without the help of the other. I think that an excellent example of this is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Supreme Court cases that led to the TRC. The TRC’s findings have played a key role in influencing how Indigenous history and culture is taught in Canadian schools, as well as influencing changes in curriculum to better reflect Indigenous realities. All of the recommendations of the TRC, if followed, will ultimately generate a more educated Canadian society that will be able to heal and grow as equal and respectful partners with Indigenous peoples. I would very much like to be a part of that.