Law School and Displacement

The last time I can remember crying like I had last week, I lost my best friend to suicide. I would walk around the city of London, Ontario in a haze. Sometimes, I thought I saw her walking around too, always in front of me. Her long auburn-coloured hair, flowing in the wind. I could picture her standing next to me while I waited for the #6 bus at the corner of Dundas and Richmond. Other times, I imagined I heard her laughing. But as time passes, the memory of her face, her smile and her laugh fades. I miss it. I miss her.

In my experience, legal education in Canada is kind of like the same thing. It is exactly like grieving the loss of a loved one. Maybe, the loss of a friend. Or, the loss of a part of you. Occasionally, I have these feelings that I can no longer relate to my family. My mother’s voice seems so distant when I try to tell her about my day. “Oh yeah,” she usually says in reply to my stories. I know she cares. I know she loves me because she tries her best to let me know that I am not alone.

A displacement from land.

Today, I received medicine in the mail. I imagine all the hands that touched the medicine before it came to me. The irony of having to leave home, while being at home, to attend any sort of schooling is my reality. From high school to college to university. Now, here. Home is everywhere but no where.

A displacement from home.

For some people, law school is home. Crazy, I know. But I struggle to relate. To connect. To associate. I love law but the entire experience of law school makes me want to disassociate from myself, my true self.

A displacement from body.

I don’t write because I want pity. Nor, do I write because I want to scare people away from their dreams of studying law. It is still my dream. It always was my dream…even before I knew what or who a lawyer was/is. Mostly, it was always my dream because it was my older sister’s dream. “I want to be exactly like my sister.” I still want to be like my sisters, including my baby sister. They all inspire me. But, this law school thing, keeps me from being me, and keeps me from being with my family. It hurts. It hurts so much that it feels like I am grieving the loss of my family.

A displacement from family

The laws that I learn do not reflect who I am. As Patricia Monture once wrote, “I felt during my law student days that I was always waiting for my legal education to begin.”[1] I share these same feelings. When will my legal education begin? I struggle with it every day. I want to stay but I want to go. “Let us help you,” my school says. But it doesn’t know how to help me. “Tell me what you can do for me,” I reply. Conversations take place in isolation of each other. Still, my struggles are not isolated. It is all connected. These feelings of waiting, of grieving, of wanting. The words I use seem confusing. A dissonance between each other. But it’s my reality. And even the words available to describe my experiences in law school are inappropriate. Complain. I can’t complain about what has always been. That’s the truth and that’s the reality.

While I reflect on my experiences last week, I want to envision a schooling system that doesn’t force its students to feel alone, to feel isolated. From their families, their home or their land. I want to dream of a schooling system that doesn’t remove itself from the communities that surrounds it. This displacement, the removal, the erasure, is getting tiring. Let’s conceive a new schooling system that doesn’t treat my realities, one of many, as an Anishnaabe-kwe existing in isolation from each other and others. We are all connected.



[1] “Now that the Door is Open: Aboriginal Peoples and the Law School Experience,” in Thunder in my Soul: A Mohawk Woman Speaks.

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