Student stories

Kirsty Broadhead (UVic Law) combines passion and research with Indigenous law co-op

Kirsty Broadhead

Indigenous Law Research Unit

In the photo (from left to right): Val Napoleon (supervisor), Kirsty Broadhead and Adrienne Macmillan (law co-op student)

UVic law student Kirsty Broadhead knew from a young age that she wanted to be a lawyer. “I chose law a long time ago because I wanted to be in a position of authority and power to make positive change,” she says. Growing up in Grimshaw, Alberta, she was inspired by her mother and grandmother who saw room for change through their roles with Child and Family Services. “My Granny always said if she had to do it over again she would have been a lawyer.” Kirsty also credits her father for instilling her with a strong work ethic – something she says has helped her succeed in her work experience thus far.

After Kirsty finished her first year of law school, a co-op position became available with the Indigenous Law Research Unit at UVic thanks in part to funding from BC’s Aboriginal Service Plan (ASP). The funding supports partnering Indigenous students with culturally and academically relevant work experience in Indigenous communities and organizations. For Kirsty, who is Cree Métis on her mother’s side and of Irish, Austrian and Scottish descent on her father’s, this created a great opportunity to explore what she is passionate about. “I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could spend a summer learning an area of law that I deeply care about?” she says. “It must have been meant to be, because I got the job.”

As a student researcher, Kirsty is making positive change as she creates a space for Indigenous law in the Canadian legal landscape. She is helping compile a tribal casebook that draws legal principles and concepts from traditional stories of the Secwepemc people in interior BC. This casebook will assist the Secwepemc in creating laws based on their relationship to the land and its resources. “This hands-on-learning is showing me that when we seek out Indigenous law and take it seriously, we can create something that can guide the nation’s governance policies, programs and regulations,” says Kirsty.

Kirsty believes placing equal value on Indigenous and Canadian law will have a positive long-term impact for all of Canada. “We’ve become so detached from the earth and I think Indigenous law plays a huge role in restoring that relationship,” she says. “That relationship needs to be solidified and taken seriously if we are going to mitigate the damage we have already caused.”

Following this co-op term, Kirsty will begin her second year of law school. She isn’t sure where her degree will take her, but she knows that her co-op experience has broadened her interests. “I think I want to be a crown prosecutor but being so immersed in Indigenous law this summer has really expanded my horizons,” she says. “Ultimately, I’m just excited about the future!”

More about Law co-op