It isn’t everyday that two Smithereens will coincidently meet up at university in Victoria and graduate from the same law program, but for Ashley Jacobs and Chad Day, this uncommon occurrence became their reality.
Although they come from very different backgrounds, Ashley, a Métis, and a competitive figure skater and Chad, a jock of all trades from the Tahltan Nation, the two 27-year-olds wound up in the same law program at the University of Victoria.
Chad was born in Vancouver and moved to Telegraph Creek when he was young. When his parents saw that he excelled in both school and sports he moved to Smithers with his mother.
Ashley was born in Dawson Creek and moved to Smithers as a child. Her competitive lifestyle allowed her to move around a lot in her youth. She travelled alone and lived with host families and coaches on her journey, but she was injured at 17 and had to stop competing.
“It was pretty devastating, but I think that overall it worked out for the best and I feel like I’m on a career path that is really meaningful and it will be quite fulfilling,” she said.
The two met at Muheim Elementary School in a grade four-five split class with Miss Cromer.
“We quickly became friends,” Jacobs said.
Life happened and the two friends were separated on their individual journeys through university.
Ashley had finished her double major in women’s studies and history while Chad finished his double major in Native Studies and political science while simultaneously starting a family with his then partner, Sarah.
Through their studies and life experiences, the two had sparked an interest in law, specifically an interest in aboriginal law.
“A lot of people were shocked when they found out I was going to go to law school,” Chad said.
“Growing up in Smithers, I was just the big jock and never really told anybody that I had a brain.”
The two bumped into each other at a pre-law program for aboriginal students hosted in Saskatoon.
Partially inspired by TV and movies, Ashley grew fond of the idea of law, but after her degree that spark of an interest transformed into a flame.
“I wanted to use that degree to reduce social marginalization and I could see the law as a way to do that,” she said.
“My understanding of inequality was first developed by listening to stories about how there is racism in the Bulkley Valley and how it affected our family and our community and I think that growing up with an understanding about racial discrimination has influenced the direction that I went career-wise,” she added.
Chad had grown up aspiring to be a dentist as he had always looked up to his.
“When I was a kid, he had an Escalade, a gorgeous wife, and all these Macaulay Culkin-looking kids. I always wanted to be a dentist because of Dr. Tansey?” he said.
But his career goals changed after completing his Native Studies degree.
“I learned of the depth of injustice of what happened, and what is happening, to the First Nations people in this country. Then, I definitely wanted to pursue the law degree because there is so much injustice. I at least wanted to understand it.” Day said.
Ashley explained that the law program was extremely demanding but she found a way to stay motivated.
“Aboriginal people are marginalized locally and nationally and I wanted to find a way to create change there and that was a big root for me when I was struggling to remember why I was there,” she said, adding that her family was another big motivator.
Chad and Ashley graduated from their four-year law program this year and attended a special aboriginal ceremonial graduation.
“I just thought it was so surreal that we grew up in Smithers and to be going through the same kind of ceremonial thing all these years later, like 20 years later—I just thought that was pretty cool,” Day said.
Ashley has lived and worked all over. She’s resided in Vancouver, Nelson and Iqaluit, Nunavut. She’s currently residing in Toronto working her articling year at the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic. She is also studying for her Bar Exam in June.
“I do feel like I’m working up towards a career in politics, that’s what I would ideally like to do,” Ashley said, adding that municipal politics would be her choice.
“Municipal law touches your life everyday, the bylaws, and how a city is supporting its people. I think that municipal governments are made up of a lot of people who really care about their communities,” she said.
Chad has recently been traveling down the coast of California but he hopes to come back up north soon.
“That’s where my heart is at. Between Smithers and Telegraph Creek is basically my home and I definitely want to remain up north,” he said.
He is currently a Tahltan Band councillor, but he hopes to pursue criminal law while remaining politically involved with the Tahltan Nation.
“I’d like to continue to help aboriginal people probably though the criminal justice system. I really enjoy that part of the law,” he said adding that he has a lot of sympathy for the First Nations people.
“Obviously in Smithers and that part of the province we dominate the criminal justice system because we are one-third or more, and growing, of the population and we take up the vast majority of the criminal justice issues up there.”
These two successful Smithereens are on an interesting career path and they’ve worked hard to get where they are now.
“I’ve really loved growing up in Smithers, I’m really happy that my children are being raised in Smithers now,” Chad said.