"We need to broaden our knowledge in order to better learn from and work with Indigenous communities," says Katie Plante, a lawyer and member of the Nipissing First Nation who was born and raised in the mining town of Timmins, in northeastern Ontario.
The 28-year-old has set out to rediscover her origins in recent years. "We didn't talk much about the past in my family. But I took the opportunity to further explore my family and community history during university," she says.
Plante is certainly a social justice advocate. In addition to her profession, she's involved in movements for the rights of Indigenous peoples and the LGBTQ+ community, another community that she identifies with. She's also a member of an Indigenous reconciliation working group at the Greater Toronto YWCA, which was created in the spring of 2018 to advise the association in its efforts towards Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous communities. "As a member of the Nipissing First Nation, I take part in discussions aimed at finding ways to support Indigenous communities, and more specifically, Indigenous women and girls," explains Plante.
Introduced to law by her mother
She was introduced to law at a young age through her mother Diane, who was a clerk in the Provincial Court and Small Claims Court. "I had the opportunity to meet lawyers who inspired and guided me in my pursuit of a career in law," says Plante, who began her post-secondary studies at Laurentian University, a bilingual institution in Sudbury, where she obtained a Bachelor's degree, before continuing her legal studies at the Université de Moncton in New Brunswick, then Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. In 2020, she completed a Master of Laws degree at the Osgoode Hall Law School from York University in Toronto.
It was a one-year articling position at Desjardins, from July 2017 to June 2018, that led to her first job as a lawyer for Desjardins in Aurora. Since November 2020, she's been a business relationship specialist in commercial partnerships. Specifically, her role is to manage the relationships between Desjardins and external law firms that represent "our members and clients throughout their property, bodily injury and even accident benefit claims," she says.
It's no surprise to learn that Plante is a member of the Desjardins Group Youth Advisory Board, which, through exchanges between the participants (aged 18 to 35), aims to strengthen the role of youth in the organization and influence decisions made by Desjardins's board of directors and management committees. Ultimately, the goal is to better meet the needs of young people.
"It's not only important to have young people on the board, but also people from different communities," stresses Plante, who's delighted with the opportunity to make her voice heard in the cooperative financial group.
What does September 30 mean to you?
"It's time we recognize the atrocities committed against Indigenous children in residential schools, and the broader impact on the families, survivors and communities. I hope this day will help make people aware of the magnitude of this tragedy and its effects, which can still be felt today."
Someone who inspires you?
"My mother has always been a great source of inspiration for me. She passed away recently, but she'll always be in my heart. It's thanks to her that I'm a lawyer and the person I am today. She was a remarkable woman who stood out for her incomparable kindness and her altruism, and who was always behind me to encourage me and help me move forward."
An accomplishment, something you're proud of?
"Growing up in a small town in Northern Ontario, there wasn't much of a focus on post-secondary education. One of my biggest accomplishments is completing my degrees and becoming a lawyer. I was lucky to have mentors to guide me through my journey."