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First Nations student first in Ontario to wear regalia at law ceremony

After months of pushing against the rules of the Law Society of Upper Canada, Christina Gray became the first student in Ontario to wear regalia at a ceremony for soon-to-be-lawyers.

The Law Society first said no to her request to wear a cedar hat and wool button blanket at the ceremony, held in June, that would call her to the bar (when someone is called to the bar they can argue on behalf of someone else in a court of law).

But Gray, who is of Tsimshian, Dene and Métis descent and hails from the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation in British Columbia, pushed and pushed against the claim by the Law Society that wearing her blanket and hat would go against longstanding tradition of new lawyers wearing barristers’ robes at the ceremony.

"Aboriginal Peoples have been left out of the conversation in creating the laws of Canada,” Gray told the CBC.

"When they said I had to wear the barristers' robes, I felt that it was an impediment to recognizing Aboriginal Peoples and our laws."

Gray argued that the blanket is like a legal document that affirms hereditary rights, obligations and powers.

And eventually, with the help of the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation and Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, Gray won the day. Along with the blanket and hat, she wore a bright smile on the day of the ceremony.

What does Gray’s story tell us about how indigenous traditions are recognized in Canada?

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