Volume 91, Issue 82

Thursday, March 5, 1998

Lady Liberty


Ombudsperson avoids pressure to conform

By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Gazette Staff

Almost 22 years to the day she graduated from Western's law school, Ontario Ombudsman Roberta Jamieson returned to speak about the many struggles she has overcome and the lessons she has learned.

Beginning the event with a traditional Native American prayer led by First Nations Students' Association President Andrew Reuben, Jamieson happily stepped up to speak to the people who had gathered to hear her views on multi-culturalism and individualism.

Jamieson, the first Native American woman to obtain a law degree in 1976 and recipient of several honorary doctoral degrees from schools including her Alma Mater, began the informal speech with a discussion on how her years at law school had affected her not only as a woman but more importantly as a Native American. "For me, the study of law presented a lot more questions and challenges than answers."

One of the most important lessons Jamieson said she learned from all of her experiences, is the ability to keep a balance and protect against the pressure to conform – a balance which was difficult in the times of real barriers. "It is very important to learn to look in the mirror and keep that balance."

As a young lawyer, Jamieson focused on property laws and the adversarial aspect of the law, yet she now deals with over 30,000 complaints as Ombudsman of Ontario – a role which allows her to see the changes occurring in government and their effect.

"It has become all about money and just because we're in a time of fiscal restraint does not mean we can't treat people fairly," Jamieson said. "My concern is bookkeepers are deciding our our social destiny but are only reading one side of the ledger."

Jamieson said she believes only by embracing diversity will we find answers to complex questions and we must begin to understand our multidimensional world. "We don't need to be cookie-cutter Canadians," Jamieson said. "I look forward to a society where it is no longer a novelty to have a Mohawk woman become a lawyer."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998