British Columbia

Mother-son Indigenous duo to graduate UBC together

Watching a loved one graduate from university is a proud moment, but for Jocelyne and Randy Robinson, the pride will be twofold as the mother and son graduate from the University of British Columbia one day apart.

'I think he has a lot to contribute to the field of law,' says mother

Mother and son duo Jocelyne and Randy Robinson are both graduating from UBC programs this week. Randy is graduating with a law degree and Jocelyne has completed a PhD in education. (Jessica Werb/UBC)

Randy Robinson went to law school because he was frustrated at the high percentage of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.

​His mother, Jocelyne Robinson, an educator, returned to university because she noticed there were too few First Nations students in high school math and science classes.

This week, the mother and son duo will both graduate from the University of British Columbia; Randy with a law degree and Jocelyne with a PhD in education.

Both plan to use their respective degrees to address the First Nations' inequities that sent them back to academia in the first place.

The Robinsons are Algonquin from the Timiskaming First Nation in Quebec.

Jocelyne Robinson said she's immensely proud of her son.

Single mom raised 7 kids

"I'm elated, ecstatic," she said. "I think he has a lot to contribute to the field of law.  

"For our family and for the community."

Jocelyne Robinson, who is also a sculptor and single mother who raised seven children, said she plans to use her degree to help shape education policy.

Randy, 31, who worked odd jobs in maintenance and volunteered at social agencies before pursuing  law, said he wants to provide First Nations' clients with a voice in the criminal justice system.

"There is something about going to court and speaking to the judge and bringing my perspective about a particular issue . . .  and advocating in the court, and it's a public forum and that's really significant," said Robinson. He's also glad that he'll be increasing the ranks of First Nations' lawyers.

The Robinsons moved to B.C.'s Lower Mainland in the 1990s. Jocelyne, who is divorced from Randy's father, worked as a teacher and support worker. Early on, she noticed that First Nations students weren't pursuing science programs. She thinks that's because these students had few examples to emulate.

"I thought I could go back to school and find ways to alleviate that gap in education," she said.

Randy Robinson said his six siblings have all pursued post-secondary studies. A younger sister completed law school and another sister is studying medicine at McGill University.

His siblings and extended family are coming to Vancouver to attend the graduation ceremonies.

Proud mother

Jocelyne, who obtained previous degrees at Emily Carr University and Simon Fraser University, said she's proud that all her kids have pursued academia.

"I always thought that example was the best way to show it," she said. "So many things can go wrong in trying to enforce an idea.

"That's what I've done with all of my children and my education, just try to show, try to teach by showing."

She's also proud of her own accomplishment.

"It wasn't that long ago that Aboriginal people couldn't go to university or practice law. Or even leave the reserve. It's pretty incredible that we're here."