My decade in review? I have certainly accomplished a lot but with every accomplishment comes its challenges.
There are always two stories that people tell or share about themselves publicly. Over the past few years, I have been quite open about my story but often times, I censor myself. I censor myself to protect my own safety. Speaking and writing so publicly comes with a lot of risks.
For many of you who have been following my work, I appreciate all the support you have given and shared throughout the years. For those who are new, I thought to share the other story--the uncomfortable story of success, including all of its the fears, risks, challenges and yes, even the failures.
Starting from the top-left row:
2019: I was on Power & Politics discussing the leak of the National Inquiry’s Final Report into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. It was just a week before I left a job at a publicly traded company working on some amazing files. I was scared and to this day, I still am scared but I am also excited. I now have a trauma-informed practice that provides flexible options to my clients.
2018: I was called to the Ontario bar. I had a hard time finding any media work/snippets I had done this year but I remember, it’s okay to take a break when you need it. I certainly needed it. Earlier in that year, my lawyers helped me overcome a good character investigation. All lawyers must be of good character including during and before articling (both necessary processes to be called to the bar). I received notice of the investigation in June 2017, about 6 months after I applied to the Ontario bar in 2016, and it finally closed in February 2018. Many thanks to my lawyers! I am holding a sign asking for the repeal of a harmful legislation enacted without proper consideration after a supreme court decision, which declared three prostitution provisions invalid. I may grow but my message doesn’t change.
2017: I was on CTV’s The Social discussing feminist advocacy. I was nervous. I was nervous because we were talking about advocacy and I was (and am still) dealing with the effects of being harassed and stalked for my sex work advocacy. From police to other so-called feminists. During this show, I was talking about how it is important to ensure that we recognize different kinds of advocacy—not everything is in the public or publicly recognized. This is still true: Everyone still has to eat, and the dishes still have to be cleaned. In other words, there is always work but nobody wants to do the un-sexy, un-fun work. I also lost my dad suddenly the month before. RIP daddios.
2016: I was recognized by Samara and award their Everyday Political Citizen award for my advocacy work. In 2016, I also entered second year law school but not after failing torts in first year. I didn’t know where I would end up at this point or if law was for me. The Cindy Gladue case, involving the murder of an Indigenous woman in the sex trade, was in the headlines after a post I wrote went viral. Other feminists consistently worked to erase her sex working experience. As always when an Indigenous woman in the sex trade is murdered, our lives are only valuable when we are dead but never when we are alive and speaking our truths. I continue to speak my truths. Ps. I ended up graduating on the Dean's honours list and I ended up working on tort files in my legal career. A grade is just a point in time.
2015: I was in a Vice Documentary on sex work, documenting the harmful law known as Bill C-36. I was interviewed and I felt it was important to talk about how a feminist who worked on the law (also known as the Nordic Model) informing this bill even said our bill was likely not constitutional. It is funny when certain voices are listened to while others are ignored (haha, not funny…joke’s on you).
2014: I was the only First Nations woman with lived experience to publicly oppose the bill that was introduced after Canada’s highest court declared three prostitution provisions invalid for violating the Charter, namely section 7 (right to security of person). The Supreme Court of Canada held that the effect of these laws were established when one person was negatively impacted (i.e. murdered) by the laws. The SCC also said that, which many forget, the number of people saved or protected by the laws does not factor into a section 7 analysis. Immediately following this, I was instantaneously stalked and harassed by many individuals including other feminists. The effects on this left me fearing for my life. I didn’t know who I could trust.
2013: I believe I attended my first public protest, an Idle No More protest. I remember the day I first seen the hashtag appear on my social media, and watching it grow from there. I have been to a few protests since then but I have also been a huge advocate for making advocacy work accessible. Protests are not accessible for everyone and are sometimes harmful for many.
2012: I attended the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting and I attended as a the VP – women’s representative for the Liberal Party of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples Commission (now, the Indigenous Peoples Commission). I learned a lot about politics volunteering and I met a lot of great people but I also experienced a lot of racism and sexism from other non-Indigenous people in politics. I now volunteer on campaigns, when and where I can.
2011-2012: I began speaking about my experiences in the criminal justice system and one of the events that I spoke at was the FREDA (Feminist Research, Education, Development and Action Centre) National Research Day, titled, “Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence: Exploring the Continuum of Violence Against Women and Girls”. This was also my first introduction into trauma-informed practices. I am with the amazing Dr. Beverly Jacobs!
2009 - 2010 (no image): At some point in time, I decided to go back to school. I moved to London, Ontario in the context of sex work and from 2007 - 2010, I was studying law clerking. I loved law clerking and I love providing assistance to the lawyers I was working for but work was hard to find being in a new city. I eventually went on to study criminology with a minor in women's studies at Western University. Come around 2013 (?), I applied to law school and all my applications were accepted. At the time, I thought I wanted to study criminology at the graduate level but I didn't get in to the criminology program. That's okay because come 2019, I opened my own trauma-informed law practice with flexible options for my clients.
Be patient and kind in your learning and growing.