Order of Canada nomination leaves Prince Albert judge at a loss for words

 By Bailey Sutherland

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Honourable Gerald Morin said he was at a loss for words when he received the call from the Governor General’s office.

 

“My only response was, `wow’,” said Morin. “It was rather different.”

 

Morin grew up in Cumberland House, Sask. and is a member of the Peter  Ballantyne Cree Nation. After starting out in the criminal justice  system as a probation officer in 1973 and becoming a single father,  Morin was determined to follow his dream of becoming a lawyer and  eventually enrolled into the law program at the University of  Saskatchewan in 1984.

 

After graduating, he came back to Prince Albert and began his  lifelong career of integrating the Cree language into the court system.

 

“Having the ability to speak Cree really put me in a situation where I  was able to talk to a lot of clients and got my name around into the  Indigenous community,” recalled Morin. “I didn’t find law school easy;  it wasn’t an easy route for me, but I always wanted to help people. It  was a hard road, but I certainly have no regrets about it.”

 

Morin had a lot of people to thank for where he is today, including  both of his parents and his sister who have passed on, his wife and son,  and the Court Clerks that helped make his job easier.

 

“This was certainly a journey that I didn’t travel alone,” said  Morin. “I had four Cree speaking clerks, those are people that were  there from the start and still are. That says a lot in terms of  commitment. As any judge will tell you, we can’t do our work without the  clerks. They’re the glue that keeps us together.”

 

Morin helped pave the way for the Cree-speaking provincial court  system during his years as a judge, sitting in Indigenous communities  such as Sandy Bay, Whitefish First Nation and Ahtahkakoop First Nation.

“I moved the court onto the reserves so it would be more accessible  for them. I looked at it in terms of where the language was being spoken  at in a high rate,” he explained. “Delivering in Cree court meant a  different level of access, not only physically, but being able to  communicate with the court directly in a language that is their own. I  think that’s very important, that was key.”

Morin said sometimes it’s hard to realize what the implications of his accomplishments were, as an insider looking out.

“Those are things you don’t easily measure,” he said. “The way we try  to look at restoring justice a little bit differently having an impact  in relation to the communities? It’s very much a part of my world.”

Morin stressed the importance of education for the incoming  generations of Indigenous lawyers and judges; noting that it’s better to  teach by example.

“It’s not so much what you tell them, but what you show them,”

he  said, adding that First Nations people lack the same accessibility to  education as other Canadians.

 

“Stay in school, learn how to say a key word? `no’,” said Morin. “No,  I have to study; no, I have to work on this project.

Those are the  messages the young people need.”

 Bailey Sutherland is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the

PRINCE ALBERT DAILY HERALD. The LJI program is federally funded.

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