Indigenous and legal traditions a part of Indigenous judge swearing-in ceremony
- Angela Hill | March 12, 2019
Michelle Brass didn’t always plan to become a judge. She just wanted to serve society.
“I’ve always enjoyed working for the public as a public servant,” Brass said.
Throughout her career in law spanning over 20 years she has worked to give back, spending time with Justice Canada, the Indian Specific Claims Commission, Saskatchewan Water Security Agency and in private practice.
She received her law degree from the University of Saskatchewan and has gone back to teach classes for College of Law’s Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre.
“Judge Brass is an outstanding appointment to the bench,” said Saskatchewan’s justice minister and attorney general Don Morgan, in a release.
“From sharing her knowledge in the classroom, to providing advice to the ministry, she has made valuable contributions to the legal community in Saskatchewan and Canada … Her knowledge, experience and skill will certainly enhance the judicial system in our province.”
Brass, who is from the Peepeekisis First Nation, was appointed in November and was sworn in as the judge of the provincial court in Estevan on Jan. 11.
“It was a great ceremony,” Brass said.
Over the hour and a half long ceremony, there was both the traditions of the legal system and cultural tradition, she said.
At the Regina Provincial Courthouse, where the event was held, chief justices from the courts and representatives from the legal community attended, a drum group played an honour song, and an elder offered a prayer.
“I thought it was very important because it was the first time for Treaty 4 to have an Indigenous judge sworn in in their own territory,” she said, about including culture in the ceremony.
Throughout her career Brass said she had people to look up to, whether it was her uncle inspiring her to pursue higher education, or her father starting her thinking about the law as a career path, and she always felt supported. Brass hopes she can be a role model to youth.
Seeing an Indigenous woman judge in the courtroom has led people to approach Brass after court, “and say they are so happy to see me sitting there.” Another time, a youth wanted to know if she would be there the next day.
Brass finds it encouraging.
“I think that this is a positive thing,” she said. “I find it an exciting challenge, a positive challenge.”