Canadian Lawyer

July 2021

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Page 8 of 51 7 Ojanen lost her job after spending four months in 2016 as an articling student at Acumen. Doroshenko and Acumen then sued Ojanen, claiming she was using stolen files to create a driving-law blog to compete with the firm for clients. On Aug. 13, 2019, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Gomery, the trial judge, found Acumen did not have just cause to fire Ojanen. He wrote Doroshenko "jumped to the conclu- sion" that Ojanen's intention with the blog [in question] was nefarious. He awarded Ojanen $18,944 in general damages and $50,000 for aggravated damage. In their appeal, Acumen and Doroshenko did not challenge the trial judge's findings of fact. Instead, they argued the trial judge erred by not considering the special relation- ship between a principal and articled student mandated by the rules and requirements of the Law Society of B.C. The appellants argued the judge wrongly concluded Ojanen's conduct did not breach the employment rela- tionship or justify termination because it fell short of dishonesty. However, the appeal court ruled that the actions of Doroshenko stand out "as unfair and unduly insensitive." The judge noted Ojanen was given her termination notice in front of her classmates while attending a professional legal training course, making it an "unnecessary and psychologically brutal" deliberate public firing. Miller Titerle's Tamara Napoleon reflects on her work as an Indigenous rights activist Q&A Fast facts: » Member of Saulteau First Nations » University of Victoria – JD Law, 2005-2008 » University of Victoria, Bachelor of Arts, Gender Studies and Sociology, 2001-2005 » Co-Lead + Principal, Indigenous Law Group, Miller Titerle + Co., 2017-present » 2020 Lexpert Rising Star Tamara Napoleon is a partner at Miller Titerle LLP in Vancouver, focusing on Indigenous law. She was named a Lexpert Rising Star in 2020, profiling up-and-comers in the legal profession. We asked Napoleon, a member of Saulteaux (Anishinabe) First Nation in B.C., about her interest in the law and what it means to her. Tell us a bit about your family and how it shaped you? I have a strong matriarchal bent in my family. My mom, my aunt and my sister were very much in the constellation of my upbringing, and they are strong fierce women, so they don't take a lot of bull, and they don't take no for an answer. What did you learn from your family? I learned the value of land and relationships as bedrocks of nationhood. Society reform was a big pillar of my upbringing, too, making sure that creating opportunities that members of her family didn't have. What made you become a lawyer? I don't think that I ever knew that I was going to become a lawyer, unlike others who grow up knowing that is what they are going to do. Instead, I took Women's Studies at the University of Victoria and decided to stay there for law school after graduating with my bachelor's degree. My aunt was also a big influence. She got her law degree around the time I was getting my bachelor's. She would regularly say something along the lines of "when you go to law school, Tamara." What attracted you to Indigenous law? I wanted a career that didn't have limitations and where I could affect a lot of change. And law was very much a language that was becoming very powerful. It just kept coming up in every direction that I was looking. How should Indigenous law and Canadian law work together? Steps are being taken in having Indigenous laws exist beside Canadian law, not so much about incorporating Indigenous law into Canadian law but moving towards legal pluralism, where the two systems coexist in the same space. I think we have to challenge the premise Canada has a monopoly on the application of the law. What do you hope for your children? I hope the work I am part of now will mean a better world for my two sons. My parents' generation fought their way to open doors, and my generation is picking up that battle through legal means and negotiation. I hope when my children become adults, they won't have to continue the fight and can focus on other things. "The trial judge erred in not awarding punitive damages, as the general and aggravated damages awards were insufficient to achieve the goals of denunciation, deterrence, and retribution in light of the appellants' highly reprehensible misconduct," Court of Appeal for B.C. Justice Richard Goepel Tamara Napoleon Partner MILLER TITERLE LLP

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