I was recently asked to share my story for the newly formed non-profit called Everyone’s Canada, which is based in Edmonton, Alberta. This organization is highlighting individuals from across Canada with the aim of challenging the narratives about belonging in Canada. I was not quite sure what I wanted to write about after being asked, but after watching an episode of “This is Us” on television, I felt inspired to write about what I knew— my own experience, my family and how they inspire me.
“What does it mean to be a Ts’msyen and Dene citizen. These are questions that my supervisor Dr. Val Napoleon has tasked me with, when thinking critically about the countless ways in which it means to be a Canadian citizen or how Canadian law is enacted. But what does it mean for Indigenous law to be practiced? There are certain rights, responsibilities, and obligations that I have as a Ts’msyen citizen, that is part of the Ts’msyen legal system. I am part of the Ts’msyen nation on my mothers side of the family. I am also Dene with Métis ancestry from my father’s side of the family.
Within the last generations of my family, there was a move from the North to the South. My grandmother moved from the small Ts’msyen community of Lax Kw’alaams to Prince Rupert in Northern British Columbia. She then moved to Vancouver along with my mother and most her family in the 1960s. My late father was from a small Dene community along the East Arm of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories called Łutselk’e. Much of my father’s side of the family continue to live in Yellowknife. But after my father left residential school he ended up in Vancouver, which is where he met my mom. I was born and raised in Vancouver until I finished law school. I moved to Toronto to article at Aboriginal Legal Services, and later worked as a human rights lawyer. I was not the first person to go to law school in my family. My aunty Valerie Conrad went to the University of Victoria and graduated with her law degree. I have so many aunties that inspire and support me to be a critically engaged person and continue to ask these difficult questions.
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that I come from a long line of very strong, resilient, and brilliant woman. They have passed down teachings from their mothers and instilled in me a strong sense of dignity and pride in what it means to be both Ts’msyen and Dene. To me, this is part of what it means to be a Ts’msyen and Dene citizen.” — Christina, Victoria/Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples territory