One SAIT student’s practicum path to self discovery

Veronika sits at her desk smiling with two computer screens in the background.
Veronika Crawford is ready to get to work in her new role with Maurice Law.

A desire to impact change led Veronika Crawford to a career in Indigenous law.

Veronika Crawford has plenty of reason to celebrate after accepting a permanent position with the law firm where she completed her practicum this spring, as part of SAIT’s Legal Assistant diploma program. Law felt like the right fit for Crawford when she was trying to decide on a new direction for her education post-pandemic.

“I think I've always liked rules and order,” Crawford explains with a laugh. “I was enrolled in another area of study at a different school when the pandemic hit and decided to take a break.”

After exploring a few avenues at other schools across the country, she was drawn to SAIT’s strong network with industry and the opportunities available to students.

“The idea of a practicum really drew me in. Finishing my education and heading into the workforce without experience didn’t sit well with me. Even if a practicum didn’t result in a job, at least you’ve developed those skills and can put it on your resume as work experience.”

Crawford had specific criteria in mind for her placement and spent time researching firms which aligned with her personal objectives — she was seeking out law firms in Calgary focused on Indigenous relations. Recently discovering her own Indigenous heritage, it was important for Crawford to gain experience in a work environment committed to lifting up Indigenous populations, while furthering her own exploration and understanding of Indigenous culture.

“I wanted to complete my practicum somewhere that felt good to me and supported my morals. I want to know the work I am doing will contribute to helping others and righting wrongs.

“My Indigenous heritage was kept from me for a long time. As an adult, I've been able to start exploring it on my own — getting my status card, contacting my band and learning and educating myself, which I'm still working through.”

Picture perfect practicum

During her research, Crawford came across Maurice Law — an Indigenous-owned firm whose mandate is to advocate for a predominantly Indigenous clientele. The opportunity to complete her practicum with a firm committed to working with Indigenous communities checked all her boxes. Once she was given the green light from SAIT’s Work Integrated Learning Co-ordinator, Crawford reached out to the managing partner to inquire about a practicum opportunity.

Maurice Law specializes in the Specific Claims Tribunal — an independent body aimed at accelerating resolutions to provide justice for First Nations claimants. Reflecting on her recently completed practicum, Crawford can already see the skills she learned during her work integrated learning were immeasurable.

I’m looking forward to learning more, not only about my own heritage, but Indigenous experiences in general. From the importance of recording oral histories to the different ways government and Indigenous groups are trying to come together to set precedents for the future. This opportunity is going to support both my personal and professional growth.”

Flourishing on campus

Accessing resources and services on campus through Chinook Lodge made dealing with things from finances to finding a quiet spot to study less of a burden. The Indigenous student advisors were available to help fill in the gaps and support Crawford during her journey at SAIT.

“It was so nice to have someone who was actually dedicated to finding the little pieces to help me get through my education and understand the process.”

Four SAIT students stand together smiling at an event.
Veronika and other members of the Legal Assistant Society attending a club game night.

The Legal Assistant Society was another space that helped connect Crawford with other students in the program.

“I spent my first year as the society liaison and then moved into the role of Vice President during my second year. We organized events and fundraisers, and did a lot of outreach to make sure students were aware of what we had going on around campus. It was a lot of work and so much fun!”

Access Indigenous supports at the Chinook Lodge Resource Centre

Chinook Lodge is a space for Indigenous learners at SAIT to gather and connect with peers, meet with Elders for cultural and spiritual advising, ceremonial smudging and onsite advising and counselling.

The entire SAIT community is encouraged to go by the Lodge to learn about First Nations, Metis and Inuit histories and cultures.

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