Growing up in the small town of
Vilna, Alta., Sheila Greckol, ‘75
LLB, saw young people trapped
Greckol’s mother, Lura, was a Grade 1
teacher who would sometimes bring
home students who lacked warm
winter clothing or food. As a result,
Greckol became aware that some of
her classmates had no freedom of
choice when it came to what they ate,
where they lived and how they lived.
Many of these children were from First
Nations, including the nearby Saddle
Cree Nation and Good Fish First Nation.
Greckol carries these early childhood
memories with her today in her work in
the justice system where she is now a
justice of the Court of Appeal.
“Some of the things I witnessed,
including violent incidents involving local
police and Indigenous People, as well as
poverty, racism and the accompanying
social problems, are still with me, even
though it’s been 50 years since I left
home to go to university,” says Greckol.
She spent 25 years as a leading labour
and human rights lawyer, known for
defying the status quo in a quest for
social change. In addition to working on
cases involving abortion and freedom
of choice, and paid maternity leave,
she was co-counsel for Delvin Vriend,
a teacher fired from his job because
he was gay. The 1998 decision, the
first successful gay-rights case in the
Supreme Court of Canada, has served
as the basis for LGBTQ2+ human rights
advances around the world.
In her current role, to which she was
appointed in 2016 after presiding as a
justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench
of Alberta since 2011, Greckol is still
witness to the disadvantages in the lives
of Indigenous Peoples.
“We see the consequences of
colonialism — aptly called cultural
genocide — every day in the courts,”
she says. “The tragic narratives, the
vast over-representation of Indigenous
offenders in the criminal justice system.”
One of the many issues Greckol feels
must be advocated for is Indigenizing
the courts. This means locating the
courts within or near First Nations
communities, having community
members working there, using
traditional cultural approaches to
guide people toward a healing path,
and fashioning creative rehabilitative
sentences where possible.
Greckol believes non-Indigenous people
in Canadian society have a responsibility
to do what they can to work toward
reconciliation with First Nations Peoples.
“I believe it rises to the level of a moral
imperative,” she says.
From Autumn 2018 issue of New Trail Magazine.