Friday, June 5, 2020

Jessie Stirling

Jessie Stirling (Wa’ya T’so-la) is a Kwakwaka’wakw woman and a member of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation located on the east coast of Vancouver Island. She was brought up on the traditional lands of her people in Campbell River, B.C. and lived on reserve until the age of eighteen.

As a 2020 graduate, she received the University of Toronto Student Leadership Award in recognition of her outstanding leadership, service and commitment to the University.

Prior to attending law school, Jessie interned with the Access Pro Bono Society of B.C., and was the lead researcher on a human rights campaign confronting anti-homeless and anti-substance user stigma in the province at the Pivot Legal Society in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Jessie graduated with distinction from the University of British Columbia in 2017 and holds a BA in Political Science.

With the support of her family and community, Jessie decided to purse a career in law and to use the gifts she was given to become a legal defender of Indigenous rights.

There are more children in Canada’s child welfare system today than there were at the height of the Indian Residential School System. Recognizing the ongoing humanitarian crisis, she committed herself mid-way through her time at U of T Law to a career supporting Indigenous children, families, and communities as a child and family law lawyer.

Jessie was drawn to U of T Law by its reputation as the top law school in the country and by its location in the heart of this incredible city. (Toronto is the centre of the universe, haven’t you heard?)

During law school, Jessie volunteered with Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) in a poverty law clinic and in the family courts, the Asper Centre, Justice for Children and Youth, and she was an Associate Editor for the Indigenous Law Journal. She was an active member of the Indigenous Law Students Association (ILSA) throughout her time at U of T Law and represented ILSA on the Faculty of Law’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Implementation Committee.

Jessie also had the privilege of joining the PBSC team during her 3L year as the Coordinator of PBSC’s brand-new Indigenous Human Rights Program, which will assist Indigenous clients to identify, draft, and file human rights complaints with provincial and federal human rights tribunals, greatly improving access to justice for Indigenous victims of discrimination.

Jessie summered at the Ministry of the Attorney General – Office of the Children’s Lawyer in 2019. After graduating with her JD/ Certificate in Aboriginal Legal Studies program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, in 2020, she will return to the Office to complete her articles.

Jessie will be forever grateful for the relationships she made with her peers and professors during her time at U of T Law, and for the Indigenous community inside and outside the Faculty that welcomed a west-coast transplant with open arms. Gila’kasla (Thank you).