Connor StandingReady of White Bear First Nations was proud to celebrate his bar call ceremony with his family on June 7, 2023 at Law Society of Saskatchewan. StandingReady is the first lawyer from his nation, and is partially legally blind. Sierra D’Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Connor StandingReady of White Bear First Nations is proud to be the first lawyer from his community. 

StandingReady, who is visually impaired, said he was inspired by his family to pursue a career in law, and did not let his disability stop him.

“It was always my grandmother’s dream to have a lawyer in the family,” he said.

“My grandfather was the last hereditary chief of my reserve. Before the Indian Act elections came in, what we used to do is the chieftainship was traditionally passed down to generation to generation.

“My grandfather was one of the last hereditary chiefs and my grandmother would see how the government would manipulate us and sort of impose their laws on us. Essentially she knew that we needed a lawyer in the family to protect, not only my community, but our family’s interest and navigate us through this legal field. 

“It was always encouraged by my parents. My father would always tell me that I should consider a career in law. I finished my undergrad in 2016, I graduated from First Nations University of Canada and I just decided to see if I could pursue this legal career that I’ve been thinking about. 

“I applied to one law school and I ended up getting in, which was the University of Saskatchewan.”

StandingReady celebrated his bar call ceremony with his family on June 7 after officially being called to the bar as a member of the Law Society of Saskatchewan.

After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan College of Law in 2021, StandingReady completed his articling at a not-for-profit law firm—Community Legal Assistance Services For Saskatoon Inner City (CLASSIC).

“I use screen reading technology on my laptop. The screen reader will read to you what is on the screen, it will read to you what you’re typing, that’s how I do my research,” he said.

“I do make use of those assistive technologies, but a thousand things had to go right in order for me to get to where I am today. 

“I’m so grateful that it worked out because I’m so fortunate to be born in a time where First Nations people are able to become lawyers, but I’m also born in a time where my disability wasn’t a huge hinderance because of the technology. It was just the right place and the right time.”

Proud to represent different communities

StandingReady said through his work he hopes to be able to represent visually impaired and First Nation people.

“The reason why I choose to do these news articles is to inspire someone else that might be in my position,” he said.

“I’ve been reached out to by people in the visually impaired blind community. They reach out to me and need advice on how to navigate university, what to expect, and the different kind of challenges. 

“That’s part of the reason why I do this is because I want to help and try to give back in any way I can.”

Despite his visual impairment, StandingReady said today’s access to technology has helped him fulfill his dream to practice law.

“What I do differently is all the documents that I draft are the same, all of the cases I research are the same. Everything is basically the same, the only thing I really need help with sometimes is I’ll get the support staff to help draft the final document,” he said.

“We have legal assistants, let’s say I have a document that I need to draft. I can do all of the law part and the support staff will help me to make it so that’s visually appealing.

“When I was doing criminal files I would need a second set of eyes, let’s say if I was looking at a video or evidence in a picture format, even sometimes I would have to get one of my support staff to read police reports because when you get disclosure from the police, they hand write a lot of the stuff and a lot of it is not transcribeable to my computer. 

“I’m very fortunate that the practice of law is structured in such a way that you do have that help.”

StandingReady spoke about how he became partially blind.

“I have a visual disability. I was born blind and I had cataracts when I was a little baby so essentially when I was a few weeks old, I had to get surgery in my eyes to remove cataracts,” he said.

“I was able to see with glasses up until 13 years old. Then I had a botched eye surgery down in Indianapolis, Indiana that resulted in me having optic nerve damage in my left eye.

“I’m blind in my left eye and my right eye is slowly starting to become that way too. Right now I can see enough to walk around and not bump into anything, but I use a white cane when I’m in the city.”

Growing up, StandingReady learned how to make use of the resources available to him to help adapt to his new way of living.

“Technology has been very helpful, it was a huge learning curve just because when I lost my eye sight, I was fairly young, but I was still kind of used to doing things as a normal kid,” he said.

“I lost my eyesight when I was 13, that’s a hard enough age to begin with, you want to fit in, you want to make friends and essentially my world turned upside down. 

“It was a huge learning process when I was in university because I had to become aware of all the resources that were available to me because even though you have a university orientation, there’s certain things you have to find out on your own.”

Despite challenges he faced when studying law, StandingReady said receiving support from people went a long way.

“It’s been hard. I’m thankful for a lot of the people along the way. I just want to thank my family, the faculty at the College of Law for making this possible, everyone who I worked with at CLASSIC, everyone in my journey helped out a little bit,” he said.

“I always say a thousand things had to go right just for me to get to where I am today. Maybe if 999 things went right, but one went wrong, maybe I wouldn’t be here.

“I do recognize my band for helping me with tuition, student loans, all of the different things had to come together. Everyone was willing to help me out.”

Hopes of inspiring others to pursue their dreams 

In hopes of inspiring others who carry similar characteristics as himself, StandingReady said he hopes people follow their dreams despite their circumstances. 

“I’m a big believer that if you have the goal, if you have the drive, and the desire and faith in yourself, I really do believe anything is possible,” StandingReady said.

“It may be a little bit of an esoteric belief, but I think I’m a testament to basically what the human potential is capable of. 

“I really do believe that if you have a goal in mind and you essentially make 100 per cent effort to reach that goal, then anything is possible.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, or if you’re abled or disabled—for the most part—if you have a goal and you’re very passionate about something, I often believe ‘desire backed by faith knows no such word as impossibility.’ That’s Napoleon Hill.

“Anything is possible and I think if there’s anyone out there that’s a testament to that, then I think that’s what I am.”

He said his favourite part about the legal profession is bringing justice to clients that he serves. 

“What I enjoy about the profession is I knew I was a good lawyer when I started getting marginalized people their justice that they deserve,” he said.

“A lot of these times at CLASSIC I’d be representing people, they weren’t homeless people, but they were low income people that were maybe overlooked by society a lot of the time.

“I would be representing them and when I actually started to get them money and settlements, essentially the justice they were looking for because when you’re in that environment there can be an imbalance of power, you have a landlord who sometimes is wealthier than your client and you’re representing low income clients, and when I was starting to get these people money and get them justice, it was a good feeling.

“It’s a good feeling knowing you’re able to help someone when they’re in a bind and to help people get the justice they’re looking for. You feel like you’re serving, that’s what’s appealing to me about it.”

“I’m excited to see where the next chapter in my life takes me, and I’m excited to see how it all plays out.”

By Sierra D’Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 10, 2023 at 09:25

This item reprinted with permission from   Moosomin World-Spectator   Moosomin, Saskatchewant

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