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Future Kahnawake lawyer

(COURTESY KERRIN-LEE WHYTE)

Dear Readers:

As an essential service that is still open during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Eastern Door is fighting hard to keep news like this flowing, in our print product, though an online subscription at www.eastermdoor.com and here, for free, on our website and Facebook.

But when a large portion of our regular revenue has disappeared due to so many other businesses being closed, our circulation being affected by the same issue, and all of our specials canceled until the end of the year, we are looking for alternative ways to keep operations going, staff paid, and the paper out every Friday for you to enjoy.

Please consider a financial contribution to help us keep doing what we do best; telling the stories of our people in a contemporary medium – a solid, continuing archive that documents our cherished, shared history. Your kind donation will go to a newspaper that stands as the historical record, in-depth, informative and award-winning news; colourful stories, and a big boost to the local economy by employing 95 percent local workers.

Also, please consider subscribing to our e-edition, which comes out Thursday night, at www.easterndoor.com today, or pick up your copy Friday morning in Kahnawake, Kanesatake or Chateauguay. Akwesasne delivery has been suspended due to the pandemic and border issues.

We exercise real freedom of the press every single day. Without our reporters fighting for the truth our community would be missing a whole lot of facts, separated from gossip and rumors.

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A new challenge awaits Kahnawa’kehró:non Kerrin-Lee Whyte in 2021.

The 28-year-old, who graduated in December from the Faculty of Law at McGill University, will embark on her last academic journey before she obtains her license to practice law. Whyte is starting her training at l’École du Barreau at the end of January with the goal to pass her final exam before the summer.

Undeniably, the road to becoming a lawyer isn’t the easiest one. Yet, it is one that Whyte is excited to be on, especially given her background.

“I certainly am more aware of injustice in the system towards Indigenous people,” she said.

Throughout her career thus far, she has not had the chance to work with any Onkwehón:we, this being the very reason she decided to go into criminal defence. “To give a voice,” she explained.

Whyte knows that there are always larger issues, such as colonialism and unfortunate circumstances that can lead people to make poor decisions, as they have no other option.

While working at the Innocence McGill legal clinic for credits toward her undergrad, she became particularly interested in finding evidence in cases where people were wrongfully convicted; to look further than the wrongdoing.

Initially, this curiosity led her to study Forensic Science at Trent University in Ontario, after taking criminology in CEGEP. After graduation, she moved back to Montreal.

The next logical next step was criminal law, which tied it all together. The law program at McGill is also an undergraduate degree, but a hard one to get into, which explains why many of the students already have a degree.

“It’s been a hard journey, a lot of my peers go on into corporate law, which is way more competitive and popular. The competition is insane, everyone is so overqualified, so in order to stand out, you use every little detail you can find just to get a leg up,” said Whyte.

However, Whyte said she sees her path differently.

“McGill has a good supportive community, it’s not dog-eat-dog,” she said.

She also has Kahnawake to support her. The future lawyer received financial support from the Kahnawake Education Centre through her McGill degree. For the past two summers, Whyte has been working for the legal services of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK).

Without her official license, she wasn’t allowed to give any legal advice, but gained experience by working in close proximity with the community’s lawyers, while researching documentation that helped manoeuvre diverse situations.

Now, she said her current to-do list is to shop around and find a firm where she eventually would like to do her apprenticeship once she finishes l’École du Barreau. The Barreau is a four to eight month mandatory course to be eligible for the Quebec bar exam.

Not only is the final exam meant to be quite difficult, with competition among the future lawyers adding an extra layer of stress, but Whyte will impressively navigate through it all online and in French. Although she spent most of her life speaking another language, only learning Kanien’kéha and French in elementary school, it seems like it’s the thought of spending days in front of a computer that preoccupies the student most of all.

“I like the cozy part of it, especially now since it’s winter, but it gets pretty draining, staring at a screen without actual human beings and feedback,” said Whyte.

Whyte is well-surrounded with Francophone friends, but also found that having practiced theatre for a good part of her life helped her gain confidence to perform public speeches or courtroom pleadings. But one thing she said really helped on her road to success was her ability to take herself out of context when she was feeling low.

“Sometimes, the reasons you might not feel so great might be because your peers are amazing, but that in itself is amazing. It’s important to realize that, see where you are and not beat yourself up,” she said proudly.

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Dear Readers:

As an essential service that is still open during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Eastern Door is fighting hard to keep news like this flowing, in our print product, though an online subscription at www.eastermdoor.com and here, for free, on our website and Facebook.

But when a large portion of our regular revenue has disappeared due to so many other businesses being closed, our circulation being affected by the same issue, and all of our specials canceled until the end of the year, we are looking for alternative ways to keep operations going, staff paid, and the paper out every Friday for you to enjoy.

Please consider a financial contribution to help us keep doing what we do best; telling the stories of our people in a contemporary medium – a solid, continuing archive that documents our cherished, shared history. Your kind donation will go to a newspaper that stands as the historical record, in-depth, informative and award-winning news; colourful stories, and a big boost to the local economy by employing 95 percent local workers.

Also, please consider subscribing to our e-edition, which comes out Thursday night, at www.easterndoor.com today, or pick up your copy Friday morning in Kahnawake, Kanesatake or Chateauguay. Akwesasne delivery has been suspended due to the pandemic and border issues.

We exercise real freedom of the press every single day. Without our reporters fighting for the truth our community would be missing a whole lot of facts, separated from gossip and rumors.

E-transfers are accepted and very much appreciated at: [email protected]