November 2019 This month’s spotlight is on CLEBC contributor Chief Leah Sisi-ya-ama George-Wilson of Miller Titerle Law Corporation, Vancouver.
How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
I became involved with CLEBC while still a law school student; when Ardith Walkem, QC asked me to help out with the Indigenous Legal Orders Law Conference in 2012. Then our friend Maria Morellato invited me to co-chair the 2015 Aboriginal Law Conference with her. I’ve been helping with chairing duties since then.
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
Last year we had a great two-day conference called the Indigenous Law Conference. It was amazing. We are currently preparing for the Aboriginal Law Conference on November 1, 2019.
What trends do you currently see in your practice of Indigenous law?
Currently, I see our First Nations turning to their own Indigenous law in many areas, including: environmental assessments, land laws, as well as children and families.
Apart from practising law, you are the Chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the first woman to serve in this position. What are some of the rewards and challenges that you experience in this position?
I was a part of the Tsleil-Waututh Treaty Team, and also on our Specific Claims negotiation team and, as such, spent a lot of time with our lawyers and our Elders. I realized that I should think about a career after holding office so I applied to UBC Law School and was accepted. What I had learned as a leader and community person helped me navigate law school. What I learned from the Elders gave me the introduction to Indigenous Legal Orders. Both of these have been immensely rewarding.
As for challenges, the struggle for recognition of our Aboriginal Rights and Title continues. We continue to uphold our TWN obligation to our land and water.
What influences and motivates you most?
My late grandparents taught me everything I know about our TWN land and our people. Everything that I have done, I have kept in mind the next generations. I want them to know that I did all that I was able to do to protect our TWN land and our Aboriginal Rights. I am motivated to ensure that our snəw̓eyəɬ (teachings/law) continues in all the work we do.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have received?
My Grandparents told us to never forget who we are or where we come from; we are to always remember.
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about the history and genealogy of my people.