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  • La Ronge-raised lawyer welcomed to the bar

    La Ronge-raised lawyer welcomed to the bar

    Ruth Fafard reciting the oath in becoming a lawyer.

    Less than a minute after reciting her new profession’s oath of office, Ruth Fafard made legal history, becoming the first lawyer to be formally welcomed to the bar in La Ronge.

    That’s “the bar”, as in the tightly-knit group of legal professionals – all of 0.14 per cent of this province’s population, as Peter Hryhorchuk of the Law Society of Saskatchewan pointed out – who handle countless cases from assaults to murder, not spots like The Zoo and Rowdy’s.

    The small ceremony which marked the end of Fafard’s transition from articling (a year of work after completing a law degree, under the supervision of a senior lawyer) to a full member of the bar was held Sept. 20 in the La Ronge courthouse, with Justice Ron Mills of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench presiding. In order for a new Canadian lawyer to be inducted into the profession, a judge at the Queen’s Bench level must administer the oaths, and Justice Mills’ presence in La Ronge enabled that to happen, much to Fafard’s pleasure.

    “I’ve lived in La Ronge all my life… and it means a lot that I could be called with friends and neighbours (in the courtroom),” she said afterwards.

    Fafard, who has joined the Northern Legal Aid office as the office’s sole dedicated (that is, full-time) family lawyer, not only grew up in La Ronge but married a northerner – J.C. Fafard, son of celebrated northern judge Claude Fafard, whose name was invoked numerous times during the ceremony – and is raising her family here. The Fafards’ four-year-old son, Jean-Luc, was born while his mother was in law school, and their second child is due next February. With that experience under her belt, plus a first career in social work, also spent here in La Ronge, Fafard will be well positioned to take on a family law caseload.

    As she pointed out, she is familiar with all the local players in the family and social welfare field, such as the Lac La Ronge Indian Child and Family Services (ICFS) agency and northern staff within the Department of Community Resources.

    “That’s really helpful, to know who to talk to about what,” she said.

    Plus, she said, “I feel pleased to be able to practice in my own community. I didn’t have to leave, and I’ll be able to raise my family here.”

    While the transition into her new job may be easier for Fafard than it might be for another lawyer, getting there has been a long and winding road. After graduating from Churchill High School in 1987, she completed both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work, winning both the University of Regina President’s Medal and a graduate research scholarship at the University of Calgary along the way. She worked on contract with adult probations and all three northern health districts, and lectured in social work for the University of Regina at Northlands College.

    But, as was pointed out by Alice Robert, acting director for the Northern Legal Aid office, “Ruth realized that the law and legal advocacy can bring social advocacy to an new level,” and in 2006, she earned her Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Saskatchewan. There, she yet again excelled, winning both the Eldon Wooliams Scholarship and the Maritime Law Book Prize in Professional Responsibility.

    With her professional background, plus the tenacity and the willingness to contribute to the community that Robert feels defines a true northerner, it’s no surprise that, as Robert put it, “we waited and not so secretly hoped that she would be joining our office…. We knew anyone who could work that hard be an excellent addition to our office.”

    After Robert’s introduction and the administration of oaths, Fafard received official congratulations from La Ronge Provincial Court Judge Wilf Tucker, the Law Society’s Peter Hryhorchuk, former La Ronge Crown prosecutor Inez Cardinal, now past-president of the Saskatchewan Branch of the Canadian Bar Association, and Ed Stephens of the Saskatchewan Trial Lawyers Association.

    Justice Mills closed the ceremony with his remarks, first telling a story about his own legal work in La Ronge, then passing on some advice to Fafard: to never make her clients’ problems her own, keep her life in balance, and strive to correct the bad image that some lawyers give the profession. Finally, he said, “(to) get justice done within the law can be sometimes be a great challenge,” but she should always set that as her goal.

    Carmen Pauls Orthner


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