This month’s spotlight shines on the Honourable Marion Buller, Chancellor, University of Victoria.
How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
I believe that I first was involved with CLEBC in about 1988 when I attended a seminar on Wills and Estates. I know that I have participated in several CLEBC courses and webinars, since, as a speaker and as a learner.
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
In May, this year, I was delighted to give an address at the Indigenous Women and the Law conference. The faculty was made up of outstanding Indigenous women lawyers and activists. Their insights were both enlightening and invaluable.
This webinar was particularly moving for me because I could see how the legal profession is changing. When I was first a lawyer, you could have put all of us Indigenous women lawyers in a minivan and still had some empty seats. Now, you need at least one bus! However, there are still changes that the legal profession needs to make.
You have long been an advocate for the rights of Indigenous women in Canada.
Where do you feel that have we made the greatest strides?
I think that we have made the most progress for the rights of Indigenous women, girls, and 2Spirit people in the area of public discourse. We, as the Canadian society, haven’t talked about Indigenous women, girls, and 2Spirit people and now we are having those difficult conversations. For example, we wouldn’t have had a CLEBC webinar about Indigenous Women and the Law until just recently.
Where do you think we need to focus on going forward?
I think that we have to continue to learn the true history of Canada and keep talking about the rights and roles of Indigenous women, girls, and 2S people. Of course, all governments need to implement the National Inquiry’s Calls for Justice.
You are a true inspiration and role model for not just Indigenous lawyers, but for all lawyers.
You practiced civil and criminal law before becoming the first Indigenous woman to be appointed as a judge in British Columbia in 1994. You were appointed as Chief Commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2016. And in January of 2022, you were appointed as Chancellor of the University of Victoria.
To date, has there been a particular role or experience in your remarkable career that has stood out for you?
This is like asking me to choose my favourite child! I enjoyed just about every day of my 22 years on the Provincial Court bench. I worked with intelligent and thoughtful colleagues. I can’t praise the court staff enough. Establishing First Nations Courts (now Indigenous Courts) was a dream come true – to be able to do the right thing by Indigenous offenders. I have some wonderful memories of the people who came to the courts, as clients, Elders, and as counsel. We worked together with the goal of healing trauma. We did some good work.
My role as Chief Commissioner of the National Inquiry was a great opportunity to do some very difficult and necessary work. I learned about Canadian history, the diversity of Indigenous people and issues, as well as the urgent need for change. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Being Chancellor of the University of Victoria is a real change of pace and direction. It is an opportunity to give back to the institution that, as a two-time grad, gave me so much. I hope to contribute to UVic’s implementation of DRIPA and to help the university move towards reconciliation.
I am grateful for having a career path that has presented great challenges and opportunities for making positive changes in the law and Canadian society, generally. And, I am not done, yet!
What advice would you pass on to a newly called lawyer?
The advice I would pass on to a newly called lawyer is: find and rely on as many mentors as you can. I had some excellent mentors in my career (Jack Reynolds, Wally Lightbody, Tony Sarich, Dodie Holmes, to name just a few) and their advice was invaluable; and, keep an open mind about your areas of practice. You will find that your career path takes some interesting twists and turns that you could not have imagined.
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
Other than law, justice, and the arts, I am especially passionate about my family and dear friends. I could not have accomplished what I have, so far, without their continuing love, support, and humour.
Anything else you would like our readers to know?
I want the best possible Canada for my grandchildren and for your grandchildren.