Tuma Young Becomes First Indigenous President of Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society

Tuma Young, Assistant Professor of Mi’kmaq Studies at Cape Breton University, has recently been announced as President of the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society (NSBS), which exists to protect the public interest in the practice of law within the province. 

Tuma grew up in Malagawatch and Eskasoni and has been with the Barrister’s Society since 2001. In 2015 he sat on Council as a Member at Large and was reelected in 2017. In 2019 he went on to be selected as the Second Vice President of the Society. With his election, Tuma will become both the first Indigenous, and first openly 2SLGBTQ+ President of the NSBS. 

“I feel very honoured and incredibly privileged to accept this role during Indigenous History Month and Pride Month,” says Tuma. “Visibility is so important and being out and proud is part of who I am.” Tuma says when he was growing up, there were very few out and proud members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community which made finding role models difficult. He came out when it was still legal to discriminate against Two-Spirit (2S) people in Canada. 

Throughout his career, Tuma’s law has been grounded in traditional teachings, which he says is important to incorporate into the Society. “Part of the work that is necessary is the decolonization of law,” he explains. “The Law and the legal profession have been used in the past against both L’nuk and 2S folks. To help repair and move toward reconciliation, we need to look toward L’nuwey Tplutaquan (law) to help restore Indigenous legal institutions; that is my passion.” 

David Dingwall, President and Vice-Chancellor of Cape Breton University says he is thrilled to see Tuma take on this leadership role within the Society. “Tuma brings great perspective to the table not only as an Indigenous lawyer but as a strong community role model and advocate,” he says. “His contributions to the field of law have been vast, and I have no doubt he will continue to strengthen and foster relationships for the purpose of education and growth within the Society.” 

Tuma says the Star Trek quote ‘our prime directive is to regulate the professional in an ethical manner and for the public interest’ perfectly sums up the Society’s vision. “This can be accomplished by having a profession that is culturally competent and diverse so all Nova Scotians are provided with the best legal services possible,” he says. “My personal objectives as President are to ensure that the NSBS continues to implement the meaningful Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls to Justice.” 

Jacqueline Mullenger, Acting Executive Director of the NSBS says the team is so pleased to have Tuma as the 2021-22 President. “Throughout his commitment on Council, he has dedicated a tremendous amount of his valued time, insight and expansive knowledge,” she says. “I know he will continue to help the Society move forward and champion our key strategic initiatives.” 

As Tuma looks forward to the year ahead, he says what he is most excited about is meeting other lawyers in different practices and helping NSBS members when challenges arise. He would also like to send Elpa Meskek Wela’lin (a great thank you) to President Dingwall and CBU for their support.