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Leah Mack. The Indigenous Lawyer Finding Original Solutions to the Complex Issues of First Nation Communities.

Girl Warrior Stories| Views: 1289

Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, Leah Mack, Founder/Partner of Mack Law Corp, a wholly Indigenous-owned and operated law firm. Leah has almost exclusively worked for First Nation people, organizations and governments since 2006. She is committed to listening and learning from each person and Nation to ensure the needs of that community are always met. Her expertise include band governance, like membership and election laws, but she also provides legal advice on many other issues and matters affecting a Nation – treaty and aboriginal rights, land use and planning, community protection laws and day-to-day governance, like HR. Leah believes in working closely with each community. This enables her to practice law in a way that reflects and honours a Nation’s unique customs, laws, and traditions. Born and raised in Victoria, BC, Leah is a Member of the Toquaht Nation, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island. She received her LLB from Osgoode Hall in 2006 and was called to the B.C. Bar in 2007. She currently resides in Victoria with her husband Cole and their two sons. And to that we say YES!

What makes you a Girl Warrior? 

Supporting other women and people. I have mantras and codes that I try to live by: lift while you climb; build other people up; be compassionate and kind, do no harm, but take no shit… I am not sure I would ever describe myself as a Girl Warrior, but I love the idea of it, and am honoured to be one!

What’s the most vivid memory of your childhood? 

Tough one! Hard to pin point one too, but they would all involve my baby brothers, and my mom. My mom is a true Girl Warrior, looking back at our childhood. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. I remember spending entire summers camping in Mexico with my mom and brothers though. Living in a town, getting to know all the other kids. Getting hooked on telenovela soaps!

Who were some of your earliest mentors and why? 

Teachers and coaches. I remember the most caring ones, the ones that supported you but also made you want to be a better person, student or athlete. My first favourite teacher was my grade 1 and 2 – and we’re still friends. I think it is fascinating that people can be in your life for a moment or forever, and make the hugest difference, but never know it. My high school basketball coaches impacted my life trajectory and probably have no idea. I should find them and tell them/thank them.

What/Who inspired you to go into law? 

In elementary school, my best friend’s mom was a lawyer and I loved how smart she was! I loved listening to her talk about her day when I stayed over for dinner. She had two sons, and was this force of a woman. I wanted to be like that, and now I have 2 sons too, so maybe I am!?

How do you work to solve some of the complex legal issues that arise for Indigenous governments? 

We need more space for this question! It is a constant work in progress. I’ve been a lawyer for 14 years and am seeing little steps and actions that make me think we are making our way to better places for Indigenous people and Nations. My ultimate goal is providing complex legal information and advice in a simple and clear way. Get everyone onto the same page, the same understanding. And then see where we are – how close are we?  How can we close the gap.

Why is listening so important? 

True listening shows people you care enough to stop talking, and listen to them. Not waiting for your chance to jump in with your own experience. I get the best information when I sit back and let someone talk. And I see it in all aspects of my life! My partner jokes I should be a therapist because people tell me so many things… I can keep a great secret though, maybe people know that as well.

You work closely with each First Nations community. How does that relationship ultimately benefit the communities you serve? 

Similar as above answer, about listening. I would be no better than other colonial systems that imposed and continue to impose on First Nations if I bull dozed my way through a meeting and didn’t listen. I want to know what happens in every community – who are the Elders, who are the Youth, how does the community like to be involved?  Is it meetings, dinners, open houses, one on one with families. I want to learn as much from each community as they are learning from me. And I don’t think anyone would trust me if I didn’t know the community.

What does true reconciliation look like? 

The toughest question you have asked, and the one that stumped me for months. The problem solver in me wants to say something profound that “fixes” this for everyone. But honestly, I think this is a question for every Canadian to answer and understand. And I think it means a bunch of things, not just one. I also think it will mean some uncomfortable times for some people – doing things in ways that may not feel natural or how we were “trained”. I am reminding myself that to really do the job I dream of doing, I am not showing up in meetings imposing ways of doing things. I could write pages and pages about how far we are from reconciliation, and if anyone thinks we’re not, just start by reading comments on social media under First Nation or Indigenous issues.

What’s the biggest decision you ever made?

I feel like I make big decisions all the time, and always have! Going across the country for undergrad (Whitehorse – Nova Scotia); going to law school; breaking up with exes; having babies; opening my own law firm; selling/buying houses. It’s just life.. even the little decisions can be big in retrospect though!

What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles that you’ve overcome – personally and/or professionally?

100% imposter syndrome. From law school, to owning my own firm. I have moments of doubt, that I don’t know enough. That I’ll make a mistake. I try to redirect it to give me an edge, that when something leaves my desk or our firm, we’re confident we are right, or as right as we can be given what we know.

What’s the most important life lesson that you want your sons to learn?

You are the creator of your destiny, don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. And respect others.

What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?

What I want my sons to know, just above! Ha. I would tell her to believe the hype – but don’t crave it /need it. I loved getting good grades, or winning trophies, but then I didn’t believe I was good enough to make a team, or get that great grade. I was always chasing something, when I could have just believed that I deserved whatever was coming my way.

What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?

Find a kick ass crew/team that wants you to succeed as much as you want them to. Don’t be afraid to go solo if the option is someone who doesn’t support you. And be that person for others.

Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?

All my friends, some spanning back to kindergarten, who are always rallying, sending little messages, signals that even if we don’t see each other often, I know they’re there. And my mom, and her crew! Her friends have been part of our family forever, and now they are my friends. I definitely credit my mom with showing me what a true beautiful soul-filling friendship looks like.

Blue Sky it. No boundaries here, just limitless opportunities. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Still practising law, with more partners and associates, and a happy healthy family!

What makes you laugh uncontrollably? Cry out all the tears? 

Certain pals bring it out – we have a crew that mentions this all the time – the best friendships are the ones where you laugh so hard, crying. And my kids and husband crack me up, daily.

What books are on your nightstand?

It’s a rotating stack – Goodreads tells me that I have read 26 books this year, and would love to get to 30 by year end! Next up is the new Jesse Wente, Unreconciled and I am half way through Luster. And I just finished a fun fiction called the Disappearing Act, a Hollywood mystery/thriller.

Living or dead, who would you like to have lunch with and why?

My dad – so cliché, I know. I would love to talk to him as an adult. I remember him being so quiet, but I hear from his friends and other relatives that he was hilarious and my mom says he was smart. I want to know him better and I would love for my boys to know him.

Describe yourself in five words. A sentence? Or words?

My husband describes me as: firm, but fair.

If a Bioflick were written about your life, what would it be called and who would play you?

I’ve Got This. And… not sure who would play me! We’d need a new casting call to best represent me – 50% First Nation 50% Lebanese… I am not sure anyone quite represents me, yet.  [hardest question on the list!]

To learn more about Leah and the work she does head over to her website at:

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