Kenny Loon is the sort of realistic dreamer that the Cree Nation needs more of.
He is a father of five who is willing to sacrifice a little to make his dreams come true. He says the size of your family should never deter you from making and attaining your goals. His family supports him and understands the need for a little sacrifice on their part.
Kenny is currently studying for his second law degree. He is already entitled to put LLB (Baccalaureate of Laws) behind his name after four years in university. By spring Kenny will have two law degrees. He wants to know both common and civil law. This means he will be able to practice law in Quebec and the rest of Canada.
While in university, Kenny not only contributed to the Common Law Bulletin but also received the Sam Odjick Scholarship. This scholarship is available to native law students.
Kenny Loon got a good head start on the non-native students in his class by attending a summer session of the University of Saskatchawan’s Program of Legal Studies For Native People.
This program was designed to help students develop strategies and techniques to deal with the pressures of law school. Not only do students learn to read legal documents (more difficult than it seems at first) but they are introduced to contract, tort and criminal law. They learn many of the skills necessary to help deal with the workload of the first year.
Kenny will be working for a law firm in Ottawa for this summer. “No law firm or lawyers employed by the Cree offered me summer employment,” Kenny replied when we asked him why Ottawa. “I guess the lawyers don’t know about Cree students like me. I feel that it would be a good idea for them to accommodate people like us. We speak Cree and know the communities. The lawyers should make the effort to employ and train Crees. I know the experience in dealing with Cree legal issues would be good for us.”
Kenny sees a need for more Cree students entering legal studies. “We spend millions on lawyers. Why isn’t the Cree leadership promoting Cree lawyers to the youth? Instead, we see a lot of students taking the same types of training. Too many people in the same field makes you feel like school doesn’t matter when you can’t get a job because there’s too many of you competing for the same job,” he said.
In 1973, there were only five known native lawyers across Canada. Today in Canada, there are approximately 290 natives with law degrees and another 270 studying law. There is a recognized need in Canada for about 1,500 native lawyers.
“The Cree leadership has an idea of what we need,” said Kenny. “They should target areas of employment and encourage youth to train for them. What is needed is a study on what positions there are in middle and senior management of Cree entities for Cree personnel, a study on what jobs Cree students should be preparing for.”
Kenny also proposed a central job bank with resumes of everybody on file. “This would benefit not only the band councils but other Cree entities, organizations and businesses. This would be a real opportunity to start to address the youth unemployment situation.”
Kenny looks toward a future where he envisions a Cree law firm. “There are a few other people taking law that I know about like Peter Coon, Donald Nicholls, Brenda Small and Joanne Newton,” he said.
“In about five or so years we could be looking at a Cree law firm. I think this would encourage other students in law. They’d have a place to go and work when they finish.”