July 23, 1999 Halifax Herald

Attitude of young gives hope for non-racist future

The open-minded racial attitudes that the majority of young people display today gives hope that, in the not-too-distant future, Nova Scotia society will be virtually free from discrimination based on colour.

This evolution of enlightened racial attitudes amongst most of our youth is no better illustrated than by the results of several annual class elections held during the past decade at Dalhousie's Weldon Law School. The graduating students, disregarding skin colour, elected Black students Rocky Jones and Gordon Blackmore to serve as graduating Class Valedictorians for two of those years. And in 1999, for the first time ever, the students elected a Mi'kmaq, Candy Palmater.

The election of a Mi'kmaq Class Valedictorian makes it three years out of ten that a student from the small Black and Mi'kmaq student body was chosen for the honour by peers. Quite a feat! A tip of the hat goes to the School's white students who voted for the three minority students because of their qualities and talents!

Now, a tribute to Valedictorian Palmater: Candy was born December 4, 1968, in Dalhousie, NB, to Guy and Pearl Palmater. The family are members of New Brunswick's Eel River Bar Band.

Candy attended Dalhousie area elementary and high schools. Her competitive nature, when pursuing goals, stood out during her high school years. She received several honours; among the most cherished was being named athlete of the year. After high school, Candy attended Fredericton's St. Thomas University and then completed a legal secretary's course at Halifax's Margille Business College.

In 1996, tiring of secretarial work, Candy decided to earn a Law Degree form Weldon Law School. Today, with Degree in hand, her immediate dreams are to complete articling with the Halifax law firm of Patterson Palmer Hunt Murphy, pass the Bar exams in the year 2000, and begin practising law in earnest.

The respect Candy earned from student peers and professors alike during her three years of law studies was a product of dedicated determination. In contrast to what many young Mi'kmaqs have grown to pin their hopes on, she knows that sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the World to offer opportunities, is a dead-end street. Thus, goals are set and she works hard to achieve them. (If First Nations People are ever to know the end of dependence on Indian Affairs and have responsible self-government, Candy's example of self-reliance is a must to follow. It is the road to freedom.)

Displaying a grasp of topics besides legal ones, Candy, at last spring's Chief Justice Lorne Clarke Symposium, offered these thoughts on how to improve human relations: "We constantly focus on what is different about us. We are all human beings. We all share very basic needs. We all want to love and be loved. We all want to be accepted in our communities. We all want our children to have better lives than we had. If we could only concentrate on our similarities, we would find this work much easier."

Candy's Symposium speech was lauded by Dalhousie's Dean of Law, Dawn Russell, in a memo she wrote to the Bar Society: "Last week, the Law School and the judiciary hosted a symposium at the Law School in honour of former Chief Justice Lorne Clarke... Over the course of the day, insightful and thought-provoking papers were delivered by some of the most imminent scholars, lawyers and jurists in Canada.

“Candy Palmater, a third year student,...was a member of the last three-member panel on`Law, Justice and Community: The Way Ahead'. The other members of the panel were Rod MacDonald, President of the Law Commission of Canada (and former Dean at McGill), and the Hon. Richard J. Scott, Chief Justice of Manitoba - pretty intimidating company for a law student.

“Ms. Palmater delivered a powerful and inspiring talk which moved and impressed the entire audience of more than 160 people. Indeed, her talk earned her the only standing ovation of the day. Ms. Palmater's performance was a credit not only to herself, but also to the (Indigenous Black and Mi'kmaq) Programme and the School."

This gem of advise was part of Candy's Valedictory address to her peers on graduation day: “Ours is a noble profession. We should conduct ourselves in a way that perpetuates pride in the practice of law. We must also remember that our degree carries a certain responsibility with it - responsibility to our communities and to the less-fortunate among us.”

Based on the aforementioned, and my personal observation of her thirst for knowledge, I believe Candy will know much success in life. Her pursuit of excellence is an inspiration for all. May the Great Spirit always guide and walk with her!

As Candy's experience highlights, the Indigenous Black and Mi'kmaq Programme has proven invaluable as a tool to help aspiring law students from the Black and Mi'kmaq populations to enter and succeed at Law School. Before, and for a time after, the Programme started, discrimination was often encountered. However, with the passage of time, as evidenced by the elections, the animosity has faded.

With this evolution, I see a time in the not to distant future when the programme will no longer be needed. Its consignment to the ash heap of history, as an unneeded tool to promote racial equality in the justice system, will be a monument of its success.

Daniel N. Paul

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