By Thomas Winterhoff
UVic Law graduate Tara Williamson is deeply committed to helping First Nations youth overcome obstacles and strengthen their communities. The skills she developed at UVic will help her support young people through the provision of legal assistance and vital social services.
Williamson is a member of the Opaskwayak Cree First Nation of northern Manitoba and grew up in an Ojibway/Métis family in Swan Lake, a small town of about 300 people. She developed a strong interest in social issues and earned a bachelor of social work degree before entering UVic Law in 2006 to begin a double degree program (Juris Doctor and Master of Arts in Indigenous Governance).
Williamson was attracted to UVic because of its strong support of Aboriginal students and an educational program that she felt was second to none.
"The Indigenous faculty here is the best there is, so that's why I chose UVic," she says.
Drawing on past work placement experiences, Williamson recognized that people who struggle with social issues often run into legal problems as well. She perceived a pressing need for more professionals who could help young people in both areas.
"I'm trying to bridge those two fields," she says of her career goals.
Williamson got a better sense of how effectively that can be done when she participated in the Law Centre program, an acclaimed UVic Law initiative that provides legal assistance to people who can't afford to hire a lawyer. The Law Centre program was unforgettable and allowed her to apply classroom knowledge to challenging, real-life legal problems—a process she found extremely valuable.
Williamson was actively involved in the law school community, participating in Pro Bono Students Canada, the Law For All outreach program, the Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Camp, the Indigenous Law Student Association, the ABA Client Counselling Competition and the Dean's Advisory Committee on Ethnicity and Culture.
"It's a really great, welcoming campus environment," she says. "There's such a host of young, progressive and supportive professors at the law school."
Williamson excelled academically and received numerous awards, including a Law Foundation of British Columbia Entrance Scholarship, the Annie Cadby Memorial Scholarship, the Law Foundation of B.C./David Strong Leadership in Legal Studies Award, the McCarthy Tetrault Scholarship in Memory of John Finlay, the James Gosnell Award, the Honourable Thomas A. Dohm Shield and the John McAlpine Prize in Civil Liberties and Human Rights.
A talented singer and poet, Williamson plays the guitar and piano and also participated in a theatrical production of The Vagina Monologues while at UVic. She recently completed her Indigenous Governance project while working with at-risk youth in Manitoba. Williamson now lives with her husband in Peterborough, Ontario.