In an interview with JUST. magazine, Caroline Bélanger-Hilaire, OBA Bastarache Award recipient, discusses language rights, legal writing, remote learning and cultural diversity in the legal community.
Why did you choose to write about Michif Language Rights for your Bastarache-Award-winning essay?
I was inspired by the Indigenous Languages Act enacted in 2019. I wanted to better understand the struggles of Indigenous peoples, particularly the Métis community who share linguistic roots with Francophones.
What has inspired your interest in the advancement of official languages in the Ontario legal system more generally?
Having opted to study law in French in the common-law program, I was privileged to study under faculty committed to the defence of language rights. As a polyglot, I have always been fascinated by languages. When I took Professor François Larocque’s course on linguistic rights, I became interested in the role I could play in advancing language rights within my legal career.
What do you find rewarding about legal/academic writing, and is writing a pursuit you plan to continue as you progress in your career?
I certainly intend to continue on this path by pursuing a Master’s degree, which I will have the opportunity to do with the generous support of the Fondation Baxter et Alma Ricard. I find that legal writing is especially rewarding. In the course of the legal drafting process, I can acquire a wide range of knowledge and skills necessary for a sound understanding of the state of the law.
You were presented with the award at a virtual event in April—can you describe your experience attending law school in a remote/virtual environment?
I was completing the final year of my legal studies when the pandemic forced the law faculty to switch to a virtual model. Despite the uncertainty I experienced, I was impressed by the skills of my professors, who were able to pivot quickly and smoothly to deliver quality distance learning.
A year of OBA membership was included as part of your prize—how will you participate in driving equality and inclusion in the profession and justice sector as a member of the OBA community?
I am grateful for the opportunity to promote equality and inclusion within the legal community through an OBA membership. I am proud to contribute by serving on the executive committee of the Aboriginal Law section. My main goal is to promote cultural diversity through my involvment in activities, training and discussions within the legal community.