Calgary

Alberta's first female First Nations provincial court judge taught 'resilience, forgiveness' by parents

Karen Crowshoe's Blackfoot heritage will be celebrated Friday when she is sworn in as Alberta's first female First Nations provincial court judge.

Provincial Court Judge Karen Crowshoe will be sworn in Friday afternoon

Karen Crowshoe's Blackfoot heritage will be celebrated Friday when she is sworn in as Alberta's first female Indigenous provincial court judge. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

Karen Crowshoe's Blackfoot heritage will be celebrated Friday when she is sworn in as Alberta's first female First Nations provincial court judge.

Crowshoe grew up on the Piikani First Nation in a three-room home shared by 11 family members. On Friday afternoon, friends, colleagues new and old, family and members of the Piikani, Kainai and Siksika First Nations will gather in Calgary's massive ceremonial courtroom to honour the new judge.

In 1994, Crowshoe was the first Blackfoot woman to be called to the Alberta Bar.

Crowshoe has acknowledged the power of her story to inspire others and credits her parents with pushing her to "strive every day to overcome the challenges that plague Indigenous people," according to a statement prepared ahead of the ceremony by Alberta's provincial court.

Parents taught 'resilience, forgiveness'

Crowshoe and her eight siblings were raised in a small three-room home on the Piikani Reserve by parents Edward and Anne Marie Crowshoe who had both suffered the effects of being forced to attend residential schools.

Despite their own struggles, both parents pushed their children to complete their education. 

Crowshoe's parents instilled values of "perseverance, resilience, forgiveness and dedication to a spiritual path that is larger than oneself," according to the newly appointed judge. 

Edward and Anne Marie Crowshoe also taught their daughter "there is a gift, lesson or opportunity in every challenging situation that she has had to face as an Indigenous woman."

Both parents died "long before they could witness any of her achievements" though Crowshoe believes they would be "extremely proud" of her appointment.

Blackfoot prayer and song

In 1989, Crowshoe earned a Bachelor of Management degree from the University of Lethbridge and then a Bachelor of Laws Degree in 1992 from the UBC. 

She articled at Walsh Wilkins Creighton law firm and practiced there for 13 years until opening a her own practice in 2007.

Her legal career largely focused on acting for First Nation governments and agencies on cases involving treaty rights, on-reserve business and economic development as well as elections and governance.

Crowshoe acknowledges the power of her story to inspire others and says she wants to play a role in helping the justice system in "moving toward restorative and reconciliation court processes involving Indigenous people."

Friday's ceremony will begin with a Blackfoot prayer and song performed by traditional Knowledge Keepers from the Piikani, Kainai and Siksika First Nations.

Corrections

  • The original version of this story stated that Karen Crowshoe would be the first female Indigenous provincial court judge in Alberta. However, a Métis woman is already serving as a provincial court judge in Edmonton. Crowshoe is the first female First Nations judge.
    Apr 13, 2018 9:16 AM MT

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.