Feature #1 – Raven-Dominique Gobeil

What nation do you belong to? I am an Anishinaabe/Metis woman

Where is your home community? I am Anishinaabe from Poplar River on Treaty 5, I am Metis from Southeastern Manitoba and I live in Winnipeg, Treaty 1

What makes you happy and inspires you? My family makes me happy and they motivate me to be better. I am inspired by seeing people overcome barriers and obstacles in their life.

What is your proudest accomplishment? I think a lot of people would expect me to say “getting called to the bar” or “graduating with my law degree” because I am a lawyer, but I think my proudest accomplishment would be getting an articling position. For those who do not know, articling is essentially a low-paid, one year internship that is required in order to be called to the bar. During this year, you work insanely long hours and have to learn the practical side of law – it is very overwhelming and not everyone finishes. Getting and articling position is VERY competitive due to the fact that Canadian law schools graduate more law students than positions available.

When the posting for my future job went out, it was for my DREAM position and I received no less than nine emails/texts/phone calls telling me I would be a perfect fit for the position. I was fresh off receiving a rejection from another position and I was in a low spot, questioning why I wanted another rejection. Eventually, I got over myself and applied. I got an interview that I thought went okay and then waited for the scheduled follow up call. With my other rejection, the calls came in the morning or they did not come at all. At noon on the day I was supposed to hear back, I had not heard anything and I assumed I wasn’t getting the job. I wanted to play strong and act as though I wasn’t bothered so I headed out to do some retail therapy. As I was driving to the mall, I got a call from an unknown number and my hear sank because I assumed it was the rejection call.

My future boss was on the other end of the line, apologizing for not calling that morning, it turns out she had been held up in court – she offered me the job! I accepted the position without a second thought. When the call ended I began to cry. It is one thing to get into law school and graduate, it is another thing to get a job. I had been rejected MANY TIMES and sincerely questioned every decision I had made about a potential career in law. When I received that phone call, it was like Creator came down, hugged me and reminded me that everything happens when it is meant to. The rejections I received made getting my articling position my proudest accomplishment.

What is an assumption or hurtful stereotype that has been said about you? I am sure that things have been said behind my back, but something that was said to my face was from another law student in my year. She was complaining about how many people come into law school and how she knew people that deserved to be there but “special categories” like the Indigenous student category took away spots from people who actually deserved to be there. For the record, the “special” categories are individual consideration categories, where you have to prove you’re the best candidate in the category and you have to do A LOT more work to get into law through these categories. I know this because I am the Indigenous student category in my year. The woman who said this tried to save herself by the classic “well you’re a good one” comment but the damage was done and based on her other behavior I am pretty sure she is racist. 

What is a racist remark that you’ve been called before? Some of the racist remarks that I’ve been called usually come from underhanded compliments.

There is the classic “you’re a good one”, suggesting that I am better than other Indigenous people because I am educated from a colonial institution. I don’t speak my language and I would probably die on the land in less than a week so from a traditional standpoint I am really not that good.

Another remark I get A LOT  is at work. Again, I am a lawyer and people seem to have a hard time believing this. I go to the courthouse a lot, and I have had many racist experiences there. For those of you who do not know this, lawyers have a special card that allows us to access restricted areas of the court house – such as the lock up, to jump to the front of the filing lines and to prevent security from searching us. The most common experience I had was sheriffs or filling clerks or senior lawyers making the comment “Miss, this line is for lawyers, you’ll have to take a number and wait with the general public.” OR “Ma’am this is the jail lock up, we don’t do visiting hours here. You’ll have to leave.” They are almost always SHOCKED when I turn to them and say “I am a lawyer” as I showed them my card and they never apologize. On a few occasions I’ve been questioned further, with one sheriff demanding to know why she had “never seen me before” and one clerk saying to me “well you don’t look like a lawyer”. The remark that pisses me off the MOST and makes my blood boil is when people point out “well Raven’s had a hard life and still managed to become a lawyer so why can’t all these other Natives just put their heads down and work harder!” Don’t you dare compare other people’s traumas to justify your ignorance. Very few people are aware of the healing journey I have been on and it is not up to anyone but me to discuss and it is not up to ANYONE to throw it other people’s faces.

What can non-Indigenous folks do to educate themselves and create meaningful change? Non-Indigenous folks can take a seat, listen and learn! Do not hesitate to call out your problematic friends and relatives. If you think it is intimidating and exhausting, than imagine how it feels to live it EVERY SINGLE DAY.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self if you could?
I am going to take the liberty and assume I’m talking to 18-year-old me: Take your plans and toss them out the window. Always be ready and willing to reflect on your beliefs – it’s okay to change your mind about things because you’re growing as a person. When it comes to relationships, whether it is with friends or lovers, love does not hurt – period. Finally, you’ll grow into your confidence, these awkward years are setting you up for some big things.

Who is a role model you look up to and why? I think my biggest role model overall would be my Dad. He passed away when I was in first year law school and I was devastated, we were sincerely best friends. My goal in life is to be the version of Raven that he saw and believed in. He never questioned my abilities and if I had half the faith in myself that he had in me, then I would be a lot better of a person. To this day, I want to have his level of kindness and understanding. I think I’m pretty lucky because I like to think I got his charm, I’m still working on the kindness and understanding.

The other role models are my best friends, Dell Dyck, Alyssa Bird and Danielle Morrison. They inspire every day by being themselves. I would not be the person I am without their love, friendship and support. I love them and I am in awe that they have allowed me to be in their lives.

You’re proud to be Indigenous because . . . ? I am proud to be Indigenous because I am the product of generations since time immemorial. I am blessed enough to know who and where I come from, something that
colonization tried to prevent. My ancestors survived genocides, I refuse to feel shame about who I am.

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