PEI

'It touches my heart': Mi'kmaw lawyer called to the bar in historic ceremony, believed to be 1st for P.E.I.

Michael Sima is officially a practising lawyer on Prince Edward Island and he's believed to be the first Indigenous person openly identified to be called to the bar on the Island.

'I felt accepted, I felt happy, I felt delighted to put on the ribbon shirt'

Michael Sima, left, with Elder Georgina Knockwood Crane and Pamela Large-Moran. (Cody MacKay/CBC)

Michael Sima is officially a practising lawyer on Prince Edward Island and he's believed to be the first Indigenous person openly identified to be called to the bar on the Island.

Sima, who is Mi'kmaw, has been working as an articled clerk with Pamela Large-Moran (PLM) Law, and was called to the bar Tuesday afternoon. 

He was surrounded by family, friends and colleagues in what was a historic, unique and emotional ceremony from start to finish. 

Inside the courthouse, Justice Terri MacPherson presided over the call to the bar. There was a smudging, a prayer, two oaths, including an Indigenous one, as well as the eagle feather teaching. Sima also wore an Indigenous medallion and ribbon shirt.

Traditionally, the court calls your name aloud three times. For this bar call, the court called his name once, then Sen. Brian Francis called his name and finally Elder Georgina Knockwood Crane called his name in Mi'kmaw. 

Outside, following the call to the bar, there was drumming and Island performer Tara MacLean sang the reconciliation song Beneath the Path of Crows.

There was a drumming circle outside right after the call to the bar. (Cody MacKay/CBC)

Sima said he's thankful, and humbled by the support shown by the dozens that came to congratulate him and share the day.

"I felt accepted, I felt happy, I felt delighted to put on the ribbon shirt. It was a great joy," he said.

"The message that I have is that it's our resilience that we can get through many things in life, get supports and we can succeed in any goal that we have." 

'It's a beautiful honour'

Sima said he has many feelings about the day, what it means to him and the support from everyone.

"It touches my heart. It's a good connection, there's a lot of people there I know," he said. "It felt really good. It's an honour. I'm humbled. Thankful. Grateful." 

'I felt accepted, I felt happy, I felt delighted to put on the ribbon shirt. It was a great joy,' says Michael Sima, centre left. (Cody MacKay/CBC)

Francis and Knockwood Crane were just two of the many who'd come to show their support. Francis said it's a proud day for Sima and Indigenous people.

"I was very proud to see him wear the ribbon shirt, that is our culture," he said. "It certainly is history today and it's a very proud moment. To me it's a sign that we're moving forward in the true spirit of meaningful reconciliation.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint, but it's steps like these that will get us there."

Island performer Tara MacLean, centre left, sang the the reconciliation song Beneath the Path of Crows. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

Knockwood Crane said she was honoured to lead the smudging ceremony in the courthouse, and have the call to the bar embrace Mi'kmaw tradition.

"It's a beautiful honour, to have a lawyer in the Mi'kmaw culture to be able to be there and presented with gifts and the knowledge," she said. "It is the Mi'kmaw culture and we have to present that."

To her, there's a story to tell of this call to the bar.

One that will carry on and people on P.E.I. can learn from. 

'It's a beautiful honour, to have a lawyer in the Mi'kmaw culture to be able to be there and presented with gifts and the knowledge,' says Georgina Knockwood Crane. (Cody MacKay/CBC)

"For the First Nations people to honour our people that go through education as a lawyer, a teacher, a judge or even being a chief, all those high authorities that we have," she said.

"The stories come from being able to honour and respect and to be proud of who we are and who our people are becoming."

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