“When I read about people’s experiences, I want to break down. It breaks my heart all over again.” — Promise Holmes Skinner, Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto
Trying to heal those historical wounds became a central goal. In fact, it took her to law school. “When I decided to go,” she says, “it was always to work for my people.” And after being called to the bar in 2011, she got her chance. Legal Aid Ontario was looking for a lawyer to quarterback its Aboriginal strategy. Melander had articled at Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, but was otherwise merely a first-year lawyer with a deep-seated desire to make a difference. That was enough to earn her the job.
Our clients like working with people who are just like them,” says Pelletier, who is of Maliseet ancestry. Indeed, if a potential client doesn’t know she is Aboriginal, Pelletier can sense, in their body language, their scepticism of her. “But the way they change when they find out that I am is remarkable,” she says. “It puts them instantly at ease.”