Jenna Broomfield first Inuk admitted to Alberta Bar
Jenna Broomfield of North West River made history recently when she became the first Inuk admitted to the Alberta Bar in full traditional regalia.
Broomfield graduated from the University of Alberta Law School in 2017 and, after completing her articling, was called to the bar on Aug. 3, 2018.
Unlike some provinces, Broomfield said, in Alberta such ceremonies are done on an individual basis.
“It was wonderful and special because it allows each person becoming a lawyer to have their own ceremony with their own family and friends... it allows for some personalized commentary, for the new lawyer to enter into the courtroom in a very positive way and be able to say thank-you to their families,” Broomfield said.
Although the Alberta Law Society requires new lawyers to wear black robes for the bar call, Broomfield said, there have been Indigenous people in the past, from different provinces, who requested that they be allowed to wear traditional dress.
“Some of them had a very difficult time with the law society and getting a response that was positive,” she said. That wasn’t her experience.
“There was no problem, whatsoever,” Broomfield said. “I spoke to Justice Bev Browne. I told her that I’d really love to wear traditional clothing. Without a second’s hesitation, she said, ‘Absolutely. I think that’s a great idea.’”
The Alberta Law Society was also supportive, Broomfield said.
Many of those who attended the ceremony also wore traditional clothing, regardless of what community they came from, she said.
The ceremony began with a Kudlik/ Qulliq lighting ceremony. There was also throat singing by Broomfield and elder Mini Auodla-Freeman.
“It was beautiful to be able to share that moment with an elder in the community,” Broomfield said.
Growing up in North West River, she said, she has been interested in contributing to her community from an early age. Jenna Broomfield pictured when she was called to the Alberta Bar earlier this year dressed in full traditional regalia.
“It was never that I wanted to become a lawyer, necessarily, as a youth but I did know that I had an interest in understanding the law,” she said. “Accessibility was always really important to me. The law, sometimes is written like it’s in a whole other language and certainly a whole other language if you speak Inuktitut.”
After earning a degree in Native Studies and a Certificate in Aboriginal Governance, Broomfield continued to look at her options, career-wise.
“Law was something that I felt I could learn and I wanted to learn to be able to help communicate it to our families and our community members, when they needed it,” she said.
Sharing other people’s successes Broomfield said it’s important to celebrate all successes within the community.
“We need to take time out to share accolades of community members who are doing a great job in their community regardless of what that might look like,” she said. “Sometimes, people are going out hunting for others, people are educating our youth, people are running community programs... it’s just as important to have these people from the community uplift one another,” she said.
Broomfield, who is practicing criminal law and civil litigation with Cooper Regel in Alberta, is also the newest member of the Nunavut Bar.
While she said law school was extremely difficult, Broomfield encourages Indigenous youth interested in such a career to pursue their goals.
When asked about any other advice she’d give those searching for a career path, Broomfield said jobs in the trades or other work within the community are also rewarding.
“As long as they find something that makes them feel fulfilled and that makes them feel happy and excited in their daily life, I think they will be successful,” she said.
Broomfield said she’d like to thank those in her profession, especially lawyers from Labrador, who have come before her.
“They are the ones who blazed that trail for me and certainly made things easier,” she said.
From left, Jenna Broomfield’s partner Leo Orellana, Jenna Broomfield and her parents Michael Broomfield and Lisa Michelin.