by Gloria Welton
Michael Sima recently was called to the Bar by the Honourable Terri MacPherson, Justice of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island. Michael is believed to be the first Indigenous person to achieve this accomplishment on PEI.
Pamela Large-Moran, founder of PLM Law in Charlottetown, filed the requirements to the court on behalf of Michael for the proceedings. She spoke of the honor and pleasure of having Michael working as an articled clerk in their office this past year and the mutual learning that took place.
Pamela referred to him as a passionate, caring, and thoughtful person. She spoke about his deep desire to focus on social justice, in particular, his concern for the high number of Indigenous people incarcerated in Canada and the importance of the appropriate preventives and representation.
Pamela acknowledged the cooperation of the court for this day of celebration to incorporate such customs as smudging, a prayer, an Indigenous oath, eagle feather teaching, and Michael wearing an Indigenous medallion and ribbon shirt.
Justice MacPherson also spoke of Michael’s strong values and principles, and how he has made it his life’s work to support, teach, and advocate for those traditionally overlooked.
Michael addressed the court to express his gratitude and thankfulness
“My message is about resilience that can get us through many things in life, and to be able to succeed in any goal with the right supports,” says Michael.
“I am very honored and thankful for everyone who has been on my path. I want to encourage my people to work towards change for our families and community. Many people have helped me to grow to be a better person and I am thankful.”
He talked about the many challenges he faced along the way, and about the voices of encouragement in the community.
Help to cope with a learning disability
Michael credited Martin Dutton, Executive Director of the Learning Disabilities Association of PEI, for providing tremendous support and guidance.
“Michael’s life journey included recognizing a learning disability and seeking the help he needed to reach his goals,” says Martin.
“Although Michael is gracious about praise, throughout the scope of his life and all he has had to do for himself, much credit goes to him for his achievements.
“The part that I helped with in his journey came when he reached out for assistance after failing the Bar exam. He asked if it was worthwhile taking the exam again.
“My encouragement was about what he could achieve for himself, family and many others, especially in the Indigenous community, in the future.
“From the initial conversations, we addressed practicalities. The Law Society accepted our recommendations on how Michael could demonstrate his knowledge and ability by some adaptation to the examination process. His mark went up to over 90 percent. They did not mark soft, and they realized Michael knew what was required for each section of the Bar examination.
“Michael received, in my opinion, limited useful support for his learning disability when younger. Offering more opportunities across society at the earliest ages can reduce longer term negative impacts such as mental illness, addictions, and relapse to damaging behaviours.
“Michael’s call to the Bar is a clear example of how all organizations can adapt systems and practices without in any way diluting a profession’s required standards.”
The Learning Disabilities Association of PEI message is, “Earlier is better, however, it is never too late to learn.” LDAPEI provides help with learning for children and adults. For more information, call 902-894-5032 or email [email protected]