Mandy Leigh Heit, as a graduate of VCC’s Gladue Report Writing Certificate, is playing a role in reconciliation. Through the program, she learned the legal standards for addressing an Indigenous offender’s personal and cultural history in advance of sentencing. Here she shares her experience with the program and this transformational work.
What is your current career? I am currently employed on contract with the BC First Nations Justice Council writing Gladue Reports. This means I have the honour of hearing a client’s personal history or “sacred story” and with that, producing a physical document that will hopefully transform the individual’s experience in the Canadian justice system with receiving an alternative plan to healing. I am also employed as a paralegal at North Valley Law, a multi-office law firm in the North Okanagan.
Why is this work important, to you and to society as a whole? It is important for society to understand the intergenerational effects colonialism and the residential school system has on Indigenous people in Canada and how it has affected individuals and families for generations. A Gladue Report assists an individual with healing through vocalizing their sacred story and creating a healing plan as an alternative to jail time. It also assists with transforming the Canadian justice system to reduce the number of Indigenous offenders in the justice system.
What is your best piece advice for someone starting out in this industry? Have an open mind and heart, be prepared, and ask for help if you need it. Take the time for your own self-care, as the writing process can be difficult.
What was the best part about studying at VCC? The smaller class sizes promoted engaging group discussions on interesting and informative topics. Also, the level of support from the teachers and other students was incredible!
What impact did your teachers at VCC have on your career path? It was an exceptional experience to have Mark Marsolais as our instructor for the Gladue Report Writing Certificate Program. Mark shared his personal experiences, challenges and successes with the report writing process, which helped prepare me for my own challenges when I started the writing and interviewing process.
What would people be surprised to know about being a Gladue Report writer? I am a year into this profession and have realized that people are generally very happy to help other people. I have received such positive responses from individuals and organizations during the interviewing and writing process which encourages me to continue with this work.