OR: At the beginning of the second term, I had an opportunity to interview Professor Scott Franks, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Law at Ryerson University. Inspired by Gathering the Threads, written by Hadley Friedland and Val Napolean, which I read in one of my first semester courses, I tried to avoid the "extractive dynamics" of the interview technique. Instead of defaulting to the "Tell us about your law," I attempted to read and understand Professor Franks' master’s thesis "Towards Implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action in Law Schools: A Settler Harm Reduction Approach to Racial Stereotyping and Prejudice against Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Legal Orders in Canadian Legal Education” before coming up with the questions. After reading my questions, Professor Franks suggested that we have a collaborative discussion on this topic rather than a pure interview. I hope that you take advantage of this opportunity to learn from his story and research.
- What life, cultural, academic and professional experiences brought you to law and the teaching profession?
PSF: I came to law in a round-about way. I grew up in a small settler and Indigneous town in northern Saskatchewan. The only lawyer I knew, even marginally, was Harold Johnson. Harold has a new book out, Peace and Good Order: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada, that illustrates well what “Canadian justice” is like back home. It is not a uniformly positive illustration, to say the least. My experiences with the Canadian legal system left me with no interest in becoming a lawyer. I wanted to be a writer and I knew that I wanted to learn and then talk to others about what I learned.
So why did I go to law school? I went to law school because I wanted to better understand Canadian policy related to Indigenous peoples’ lives. I was a policy researcher at the time. It seemed like law was always at the root of every policy that affected Indigenous Nations and communities. That is, of course, the case. Canada attempts to achieve its policy objectives through its assertion of sovereignty and all of the legislation – constitutional and otherwise – that entails. Instead of going back to work for First Nations and Indigenous corporations in a research capacity, I stayed in law. I did this mostly because others supported me in this role and they thought I could do some good. When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report was released, I knew I had to leave practice to write my master’s thesis and seriously consider teaching.