We are Justice
Dawn Pritchard attributes much of the success and satisfaction she has achieved in her professional life to the mentors she has met along the way.
“I was ready to leave the federal government and go into private practice until I gave Department of Justice Canada lawyer Mark Berlin a call to find out what job possibilities were available in the Department,” says the counsel at Environment Canada Legal Services.
“That call changed the direction of my life.”
Born and raised in Saskatoon, Dawn is part of a proud Métis family.
She quit high school in Grade 12 to follow her musical dreams and ended up playing guitar and singing backup vocals in a rock band in Toronto for a few years. When she returned to Saskatoon, she completed high school and decided to follow a cousin’s footsteps into a career in law.
Within two years, she had earned the President’s Award for highest marks in every class at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College and been accepted into the University of Saskatchewan’s law school.
“To me, success is when your boss and colleagues recognize your talent and you get to use it and not hide it.”
She juggled her studies with life as a single parent, graduating in 1996. Over the next few years, she held various positions, including clerking in the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan and working in private practice and with the Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission.
In 2003, she accepted a position in the Department’s Saskatoon office working in Indian Residential School Litigation.
“I worked in the Prairie Region Office for nearly five years, including a stint in advisory services, where my colleague offered me the opportunity to become an expert in the newly emerging field of duty to consult. I jumped at the chance.”
Dawn flourished in her role as expert in this new field, but she was called back to her substantive position.
However, she soon became dissatisfied with her work life and began considering offers from private practice. It was then that she made a call to Berlin, whom she’d met a few years earlier through her work as National Chair of the Litigation Section of the Canadian Bar Association.
“I called him out of the blue, and without hesitation, he took me under his wing and offered to be my mentor.”
That began a period of intense self-analysis, research and talks with colleagues in Ottawa and Gatineau. Guided by Mark, as well as by Marilyn Poitras, a Métis lawyer in Saskatchewan, and Carolyn Kobernick, Employment Equity Champion, Dawn started to figure out what she needed from her career and the scope of choice that was available.
“I was amazed at all the different areas a person could work in at the Department of Justice and all the people who were so willing to help.”
After narrowing her search to two positions, she was soon rewarded with an offer in the legal services unit at Environment Canada, the position she holds to this day.
“I am completely happy with where I am in my career now,” Dawn says.
“To me, success is when your boss and colleagues recognize your talent and you get to use it and not hide it. I’ve found that in my current position.”
“It is also when your boss asks you to do something that you would die to do anyway, and they ask because they believe in you.”
Dawn believes in being involved and in giving back. She is finishing her term as co-chair of the Department’s Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and will continue as a working member on subcommittees. She has also been asked to supervise and mentor an articling student.
“I am really excited, and hope that I can be as positive an influence as others were for me.”
Life has come full circle. Along with the balance and contentment Dawn has achieved in her work and personal life, she has once again picked up the guitar after many years of not playing. She also realized a life-long dream when her partner gave her a piano for Christmas. She is teaching herself to play.
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