Meet Joey Flowers: Nunavik’s first Inuk law school grad
"I was very proud of everything that I’ve accomplished and very grateful for all the support I’ve had"
On June 8 you would have been hard pressed to find a happier person in Montreal than Joey (Joseph) Flowers.
That’s the day when Flowers became Nunavik’s first Inuk law school graduate.
Flowers, 33, received two law degrees from McGill University, one in civil law, the legal system of Quebec, and a second one in common law, the British-based legal system used in the rest of Canada.
For the convocation ceremony, Flowers wore a red stole, a gift from McGill First Peoples’ House, which features an eagle feather, a symbol of authority and honour, and the Hiawatha wampum belt, symbolizing the Iroquois Confederacy, on whose territory McGill University now stands.
Flowers also wore a sealskin tie made for the event by Mary Aitchison of Kuujjuaq — “a tangible sign of some of the support I’ve had through my studies,” Flowers told Nunatsiaq News.
Watching Flowers step up to the podium were his wife, Jayne Murdoch, who also graduated from McGill with a Masters of science degree in nutrition, and his parents, Emily Mesher of Kuujjuaq and William Flowers, now with the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in Amherst, N.S.
“I was very proud of everything that I’ve accomplished and very grateful for all the support I’ve had, from my professors at school, from my classmates and my family,” said Flowers about his thoughts as he collected the degrees earned since August 2008.
After graduation from Kuujjuaq’s Jaanimmarik School in 1997, Flowers spent a year with the Canada World Youth program and then attended John Abbott College. He later studied to be a chef, and earned a bachelor degree in linguistics.
During law school, he was also named a Jane Glassco Arctic Fellow.
For his fellowship research project Flowers looked at the Kativik School Board’s student services, and produced a report called “Pijunnanivunnut – fulfilling our potential: A review of the KSB post-secondary students services support policy and program.”
In August, Flowers starts as a clerk to Federal Court Judge Leonard Mandamin, an Anishnawbe member of the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.
Over the course of his 12-months of clerking, Flowers will do legal research for Mandamin on cases that come from federal tribunals dealing with immigration, citizenship, admiralty, customs, intellectual property, tax, labour relations, transportation, communications and parole and penitentiary proceedings.
“I hope to get a broad spectrum of experience in all those areas,” Flowers said.
Next June, he expects to join the Law Society of Canada as a member of the bar in Ontario.
While he’s still wondering “what my next steps will be” after his clerkship ends, Flowers could return to school or head north because, above all, he’s missed the North during his many years of schooling in the South.
During his legal studies, Flowers said he found himself drawn to law as it relates to northern and indigenous people.
“When I looked at those cases and those questions of law that related to where I come from those are what made the most sense to me,” he said.
He’d like to explore more “what it means to have indigenous law as indigenous law,” not just as law viewed through the lens of civil and common law.
“That’s really where i want to focus my thoughts,” Flowers said.