Cindy Allen

The memory of her deceased grandmother inspired UBC grad Cindy Allen to study Aboriginal law

In 2009, Cindy Allen’s 83-year-old grandmother, Marie-Adele Doctor, was viciously attacked in her home near Yellowknife by an intruder. The Dene Elder from N’dilo, N.W.T. died in hospital a few weeks later.

Initially charged with aggravated assault, the perpetrator was convicted of a lesser charge and sentenced to 14 months in jail.

Feeling let down by the legal system, Allen quit her job as a treaty land claim negotiator with the B.C. government to study Aboriginal law at the University of British Columbia, where she’ll graduate this May.

“We need more Aboriginal people in law,” says Allen, a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. “We have our own laws that govern our behaviour, but most people don’t know about them because Canadian law is what people are subjected to all the time. It doesn’t seem to be bringing justice, especially for Aboriginal people.”

A single mother to a 13-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, Allen has successfully juggled the demands of law school with the responsibilities of motherhood. She also serves as an appointed board member of the Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board in the Northwest Territories.

“I gave up a lot to go to law school, but I think it will prove to be worth it,” says Allen about her future.

She will attend a graduation ceremony for Aboriginal students at UBC’s First Nations Longhouse on May 24. Although her grandmother won’t be there, Allen knows what she would do.

“She’d smile and give me a hug.”