Monday, December 3, 2012

By Lisa Del Col


Amanda Carling, JD 2012, was honoured Nov. 20, 2012 as one of two U of T students awarded the President’s Award for Outstanding Aboriginal Student.  Jessica Keeshig Martin, a recent graduate from the Arts & Science program, was the other recipient. (This award is announced early in the year, and feted in the fall.)

A beautiful drum song, and an address from Lee Maracle, First Nation House’s traditional teacher, opened the ceremony. Maracle spoke about how much those of Aboriginal descent have achieved in the educational system since the 1960s, and credits the supportive environment and activities of places such as First Nations House. She urged the award recipients to continue on their paths to make the educational road even better for future generations of Aboriginal learners.

The event also featured a congratulatory speech from Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo, First Nations House director. Both he and Dr. Naylor lauded the achievements of the recipients and their commitment to the university and the community as a whole.


Prof. Douglas Sanderson, with Amanda Carling (centre) and Lisa Del Col

For those who know Amanda, this achievement will come as no surprise, as her commitment to the Faculty of Law, the University of Toronto, and the greater community has been far-reaching. Over her three years at the law school, Amanda was involved with several worthwhile initiatives. She chaired the Aboriginal Law Students’ Association, was a member of the board at Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto and participated in the Kawaskimhon Aboriginal Moot, among countless other activities. In her acceptance speech, Amanda shared the turning point that led to her decision to pursue a career in law.

"In third year of my undergrad at University of Manitoba, I had the opportunity to shadow a judge who was sitting in youth set-date court. I was astonished that every young person—seemingly without exception—was Aboriginal, and even more surprised at how few of them had someone there with them for support. Until that point the words 'Aboriginal over-representation in the Criminal Justice System' were just words in a text book. That day, I saw the faces of that problem, and more importantly the bigger problems that are at the roots of over-representation. I'd always known that I was lucky to have the strong family, opportunities and support that I grew up with, but that day I decided how I would use the gifts I've been given."

Amanda emphasized that the support she received from her peers and the staff were instrumental to her success: "At U of T, I've been so lucky to have such a strong support network of both faculty and other students. The law program was really challenging and I could never had made it through without the support of so many individuals including other members of the Aboriginal Law Students' Association (ALSA), Merril Randell, Lisa Del Col, Judith McCormack, Alexis Archbold, Douglas Sanderson, Kent Roach, and so many, many more."

Assistant Dean Archbold has this to say about Amanda: “Amanda was a wonderfully open, inclusive, and effective student leader who made a hugely positive impact on the Aboriginal Law Program and the law school community. From co-chairing the Aboriginal Law Students Association, to starting the law school’s on-site yoga program, to co-coordinating our first Aboriginal Youth Summer Program, Amanda was involved in so many projects and activities that strengthened our community. We are very proud of Amanda, and look forward to watching her forge what is sure to be a stellar legal career.”

The award includes a $4,000 scholarship and a plaque which was presented by President Naylor. Amanda and Jessica will also have their names added to a trophy that is housed at First Nations House.