THE ADVOCATE 281
VOL. 78 PART 2 MARCH 2020
We could go on about Melissa’s significant accomplishments, but we
would be particularly remiss if we did not mention another. Racism and sexism
remain a pernicious reality in Canada and in the legal profession. To be
an Indigenous woman means to be constantly reminded of how those with
power sought to subjugate you and still seek to do so. Every day, Melissa felt
racism towards her and her people, both in her work and as she made her
way as an Indigenous woman walking through life. It did cause hurt and it
did cause pain. But Melissa did not let it debilitate her. She fought back
through her spirit and her action.
Melissa used her experiences to be empathetic and caring for clients,
building their trust, while helping everyday people; it is said that one thing
she commonly did was to silently pick up the bill for elders she saw having
a meal in restaurants. And more than anything else, in spite of it all, Melissa
maintained her zest and enjoyment of life to the end. She loved maintaining
her appearance, with her makeup, nails and hair always impeccably done.
Her love of fashion was equally large (Fluevog shoes were a particular
favourite), and more than anything, dancing and music were with her
always. Rhythm and blues and soul were her thing, but then again, her
friends possess numerous CDs made by her for us, which not infrequently
juxtapose classic R&B songs next to something unmistakably grungy.
As we have said, the stories are numerous, but there is one that we think
is truly emblematic of everything Melissa was and how she dealt with life.
How she told the story was classic. Once, while visiting Cuba, Melissa was
asked by a border officer where she was “really” from. “Canada,” she said.
“No, no, I know that, but I mean like your parents.” Came the reply: “Um,
Canada.” “Yes, ok, well, your parent’s parents.” “Um, Canada.” Now the officer
thought he had a solution. “Yes, yes, but you know what I mean, your
ancestors.” Melissa finally said, “Canada. Look, I don’t know what you want
me to say … .”
Melissa is survived by her mother Jessie, her partner Pascal Joseph and
numerous close family members. And her spirit shall endure in the lasting
legacy she has left for the legal profession, Indigenous people everywhere,
all of her friends and everyday citizens. She made our local and global communities
We miss you all the time, Melissa.
Sarah Khan and Bibhas Vaze