Community engagement a core part of Indigenous law grad’s education


- Mitch Wright

The law is in Katelyn Crabtree’s blood, as is her connection to UVic Law.

Crabtree, who graduates this spring from the Juris Doctor program, is the fifth UVic Law alumnus in her immediate family.Her father Tom Crabtree, now BC Provincial Court Chief Judge, graduated in 1983, one year after his sister, Crabtree’s aunt Jean Fadai. Crabtree’s brother Andrew convocated in 2008 followed by his wife Leah Plumridge in 2009.

Despite the connections, Crabtree hesitates to call it a family tradition, as they chose to attend UVic Law for their own reasons and without pressure from relatives.

“It’s nice that it’s worked out that way, but everyone was supportive of making our own decisions,” she says. “We were all interested in different areas before getting into law.”

Crabtree made her choice based on the school’s reputation as a unique, welcoming and supportive environment that offered special opportunities, such as the Environmental Law Clinic and Indigenous law courses.

While her family members attended law school after studying criminology, public administration and political science, her own interest in law grew out of a curiosity about anthropology, in which she earned her undergraduate degree with a minor in sociology, from Simon Fraser University.

“I’ve always been interested in learning about other cultures and based on my studies I thought law would be an interesting area to pursue as it would enable me to work within a community and with people, rather than studying them,” she says. “It didn’t seem like a huge leap.”

Crabtree started her law studies in 2009, but took a year off between her second and third years for a special opportunity—working with the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. Her official job title was document analyst, but she was tasked in a number of areas in the lead-up to the hearings, and thus gained exposure in a variety of different areas that the inquiry was engaged. 

“That was amazing. That I was able to assist and experience the different stages of the inquiry with such a high caliber of professionals from a number of different perspectives,” she says. “I am grateful that I had that unique opportunity.”

Crabtree, who grew up in Chilliwack and whose Indigenous ancestry is from the Nlaka’pamux Nation, followed one fabulous experience with another in her final semester. She was accepted as a visiting student at Osgoode HallLaw School of York University, in the Intensive Program in Aboriginal Lands, Resources & Governments–Canada’s other top program for exploring the legal issues relating to Indigenous people and Indigenous rights.

“That was a wonderful was to finish off my JD,” says Crabtree, whose goal is private practice once she’s completed her articles and has been called to the bar.

“A long-term goal is to make sure I stay community-minded and contribute in a way that is meaningful,” she says. “I want to make sure I always keep the bigger picture in mind.”


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Keywords: Indigenous, alumni

People: Katelyn Crabtree

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