Naomi Sayers, an Anishinaabekwe lawyer herself, interviews Janine Seymour, an Anishinaabekwe from Wauzhushk Onigum Nation, located approximately five kilometres from the City of Kenora. Naomi wants to learn more about Indigenous legal practitioners throughout Ontario and chose to interview Janine after interacting with her on Twitter. Janine talks about her experiences in law school to now practicing law in northern Ontario!
What are some of the values that you bring to your law practice?
I am an Anishinaabekwe from Wauzhushk Onigum Nation, located approximately five kilometres from the City of Kenora. I am a mother to three growing children and have been single-parenting for over a decade. With the birth of my youngest daughter during first-year law school, I can definitively say that my studies and practice have greatly influenced the upbringing of my children.
As I can’t separate out my identity and who I am, it is only natural that my approach to everything I do – and by extension the practice of law – is through an Indigenous lens. Over the years, I’ve managed to use this as a strength, raising awareness of different perspectives and questioning previously accepted views.
In addition, I comfortably challenge conventions to the administration and business of law. This may be from my lived experience as both a mother, and a practitioner. I learned early on that the conventional ‘model’ wasn’t going to work for me. It wasn’t an environment that enabled me to perform to the best of my skills and abilities.
How would you describe your law practice, and where do you practice?
I practice across Northwestern Ontario and have a mixed practice. I’m a solo practitioner based in Kenora, Ontario, and have managed my own firm since 2015.
Practicing in a small community is challenging, but I’ve learned to adapt and diversify my practice. This has only been heightened during the pandemic with the reality that we may not physically be appearing in Northern First Nation Courts for the immediate future.
I often joked in law school that I could never practice criminal law as I would be related to either the accused, victim or witness…well, joke’s on me, because here I am. And although it is challenging, it has been most rewarding. As an Indigenous woman lawyer, I represent clients within a large regional Indigenous population, and sadly, the Kenora District Jail has a 94% Indigenous prison population with 80% held on remand.