Vaughn Beaulieu-Mercredi says law school wasn't something he’d ever seriously considered. But last September, he found himself at Allard Law – about to start law school.
Vaughn, who is from the Dene Tha' First Nation, says it was his family’s support that got him here.
Since starting law school last year, Vaughn has found community at Allard. In his first year, he was recognized with the Indigenous Legal Studies Spirit Award for his leadership and teamwork and for the emphasis on community building that he brought to the ILS Summer Intensive in Tort Law. Now beginning his second year, he’s returned to Allard Law as the Indigenous Director of Student Affairs at the UBC Law Students’ Society.
Vaughn took the time to discuss his path to law school and what he’s looking forward to most at Allard Law this year.
What first inspired you to go to law school?
My family. Before attending Allard, I had never seriously entertained the idea of going to law school or even just trying to attend – and they have always supported me and encouraged me in whatever I put my mind to.
The legal profession and law schools were not designed for myself and my peoples. In fact, both of these institutions have facilitated the abuse and colonization of my peoples and my family through the Indian Residential School project. In my family, my môsoms, my kôkom, various aunts and uncles all attended the two Indian Residential Schools that surrounded my Nation. I went to law school for them and because of them.
What motivated you to apply to Allard Law in particular?
What drew me to Allard in particular was the Indigenous Legal Studies (ILS) component of the law school. In my opinion, no other law school in Canada compares to Allard when it comes to Indigenous and Aboriginal legal content. Allard's ILS faculty, staff and supports make learning the colonial system that is law as enjoyable as it can be.
What’s been your favourite class so far?
Without sounding too cliché, my favourite class has probably been Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, with Public Law and the Charter coming in at a close second. These classes are my two favourites because the subject material of them is so different from the "private" areas of law that we learn in other classes – we learn about subjects that touch a huge number of people in significant and profound ways. For myself, this makes the law more "personal" and more enjoyable and digestible to learn.
These are also the areas of law that I see myself eventually working in, so they have a soft spot in my heart!
What are you looking forward to most about your second year of law school?
My moot! I have been so fortunate to be offered a spot on our team for the Kawaskimhon Aboriginal Rights Moot.
The Kawaskimhon Moot is perhaps the most unique moot, in the sense that it is a "non-adversarial" moot. While in most competitive moots students are fighting it out in a mock court case, the Kawaskimhon Moot incorporates Indigenous ways of knowing, principles of negotiation and consensus-building into the function of moot. This stands out and in contrast to the more adversarial nature we typically see in law. I’m super excited to be able to get valuable firsthand experience in an area of law I’m passionate about with other students who are enthusiastic about this kind of work and with coaching from Mandell Pinder, a top-tier law firm.
Do you have any advice for prospective Indigenous law students who may be thinking about applying to Allard Law?
I know law school can be a scary thing to even consider, but at the risk of being sued by Nike, just do it. You never know what doors it might open, who you might meet or where it might take you. Trust me when I say this, even by simply considering applying to a law school you have exceeded your ancestors’ wildest dreams, and they will guide you along in this journey.