Indigenous law students and new lawyers are bringing northern insight back home to work in the La Ronge Prosecutions Office.
One of the summer law students returning to the north is Jodi Hancheroff. A proud Woodlands Cree woman born and raised on Treaty 6 Territory La Ronge, she was driven to practise law having witnessed how under-represented Indigenous people are in the legal field. She wanted to be part of the change.
In order to serve a predominantly Indigenous population in remote northern communities, Hancheroff maintains finding people who personally understand the dynamics and share lived experience is critical to reconciliation.
“Indigenous justice really inspires me, that is one of my passions. I know there’s room for that in every area of the law, whether it’s constitutional law, criminal law or Aboriginal law. In all of these areas, there is room to grow,” Hancheroff said.
Hancheroff is following closely in the footsteps of one of her peers.
Diana Janzen, who is also Woodlands Cree from Stanley Mission First Nation, was also a summer law student before articling at the La Ronge Prosecutions Office and taking a job there when she was called to the bar in June. To Janzen, her personal connection to the north is a powerful tool.
“I can read a file and it may be something that I have seen with my own eyes growing up on a reserve,” Janzen explained. “It’s not to say that it wouldn’t shock me, but I understand things and I can picture (the issue) and maybe I can approach it with a different mindset.”
Jorie Halcro is Red River Métis and grew up in Melfort, but has close family ties to La Ronge. Halcro says the stories she grew up hearing from generations of her family members in the north offer a unique perspective she can’t get from a class or books.
“Being a prosecutor means that you’re exposed to human suffering on a daily basis. We know that suffering is tied to historical traumas, and we also know that history is not always what you get from the history books,” Halcro commented.
As the Regional Crown Prosecutor in La Ronge, Ruth Fafard recognized a need for more lawyers who have roots in the north. She says understanding northern dynamics is an irreplaceable asset to work with vulnerable victims and to understand complex backgrounds of those charged with crimes.
“They have ties to the north, they have families here, they’re from here, they understand.”