Driftwood Gulf Islands
Wednesday, July 26, 2000
Order of Canada recipient leads interesting life continued…
…His mother told Scow that when he was very small, his father held him on his knee and told him to “never give up”. Chief Scow’s favourite song was about “hitching my wagon to a star.”
In 1961, Scow was called to the bench one year after natives were given the vote by the Canadian government. Prior to this, he could have practised law only if he had signed away his aboriginal status.
He was the first aboriginal lawyer in BC. Today, he said there are more than 50 native lawyers working in the province with other aboriginal professionals being doctors, nurses, teachers and engineers.
Scow decided “to hang out my own shingle” in the prestigious Burrard Building where a number of lawyers were renting spaces while pooling financial resources to pay a receptionist. His office was big enough to hold a desk, a filing cabinet and a couple of chairs.
Scow delights in telling stories about outsmarting the Crown council during the three years he practised general law. His first native client was a man who was charged with robbery. The Crown had a witness who had identified him but Scow’s client insisted he had been drinking at the Balmoral all day on the date of the robbery.
Scow was at first dismayed as the man’s cronies, who were as intoxicated as his client had been, would not be credible witnesses.
Then the client recalled someone’s wife, who had been keeping her husband company, had been there but had not been drinking. She eventually agreed to be a witness and Scow won the case.
Scow worked on two murder trials during that time. One ended in acquittal while the other was reduced to manslaughter with his client getting two years in jail.
Next came a job as the City of New Westminister’s prosecutor. Having recently married Joan, this work provided the couple with a secure income.
It was while he was in this position that he got a phone call from Ottaw. He was asked to sit on a lands claim commission in Guyana, along with a representative from England and another from Africa.
He told the Canadian government official that he did not want to leave his secure job. He was intrigued, however, with the idea of spending time in a country from which a former university friend had come.
After shrewdly negotiating for more money, the Scows were on their way to a two-year stint in the tropical South American country. Scow said the native people there were not as advanced educationally as aboriginals in Canada. He said he enjoyed the fact that most people there are short in stature as he is himself. In Canada, he finds the majority of people are taller than he is.
Back in Canada, Scow became the board of review chairman for the Workers’ Compensation Board. He enjoyed the job but he found the paperwork boring.
Next he applied to become a provincial court judge. On September 13, 1991, he was appointed and assigned to Prince Rupert. Again, he became bored and asked for a job with more court time.
Scow became a floating judge with his home being in Courtenay. He held court in Victoria and Port Hardy and in almost every place in between. Included on his roster was Alert Bay where he had attended residential school as a child. Scow had come full circle.
Scow believes the most important part of being a judge is listening to people and determining what the facts are in a case. “One of the things you learn starting from law school is any judge has to be impartial and independent,” he said.
On Sunday, Alfred and Joan Scow held a gathering in their Magic Lake home which neighbours attended to help them celebrate the announcement of his Order of Canada. There is no doubt that in Scow the Canadian government has found a good man to honour.
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