When Cathy Sproule joined the Department of Justice Canada, she never imagined she would be flying to a remote Saskatchewan community to participate in a First Nations treaty-signing ceremony. But that’s one of the many things she has done in her legal work on treaty land entitlement in the department’s Aboriginal Law Services portfolio.
“That’s just one example of the exciting opportunities available to lawyers in the Justice department,” says Cathy, who is based in Saskatoon with the department’s Prairie Region. “Most people have no clue about the breadth, importance and variety of work available here,” Cathy adds.
Deals with treaty promises
“I deal with all of the issues around adding land to reserves as promised under treaty, in a modern context,” Cathy says. “There are land-use issues, Indian Act issues, and issues related to the economic development and future plans that First Nations have for the land.”
Cathy recalls fondly the English River First Nation’s Treaty Day signing ceremony, which included a shotgun salute, hoop dancing and singing. “Hearing fourth graders sing ‘O Canada’ in Dene—that was one of the most outstanding and memorable moments of my career,” Cathy says.
Cathy was first exposed to the variety of the department’s legal work as an articling law student. She did mandatory rotations through several key legal portfolios, including Aboriginal law services, which proved to be a perfect fit.
Handshakes are critical
And it’s the personal contact that makes Cathy’s work so rewarding. “Each time I make a personal connection, it makes it easier to move things forward. These face-to-face interactions are critical to me—it’s how I approach my work.”
“It’s wonderful to be involved in implementing an agreement. We are making a difference—we are changing the map of Saskatchewan. And it’s rewarding to see the impact that treaty land entitlement has made. I’ve seen significant capacity developing within many of the First Nations I work with. That’s exciting, because that’s so critical to moving together as a people, a joined people, in Saskatchewan and in Western Canada.”
Excellent work environment
Cathy credits her successes to the excellent work environment she enjoys in the Public Service. “The managers here are wonderful and accommodating. They’ve allowed me to explore my career. And the recognition of family values by the Public Service is a major drawing card,” she says.
Cathy strongly encourages aspiring lawyers to consider a career with the federal public service. “It is possible to make a difference. Give it a whirl. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.”