Jorie Halcro has raised the bar on motherhood and multitasking, not only surviving, but thriving, as she graduates near the top of the Class of 2023 in the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). For Halcro, the extraordinary everyday effort required to raise her two boys Billy-Ray and Bobcat – who turn four and one this month – while completing law school helped keep life in perspective and empowered her dedication to her education.
“I don’t deny that it was a challenge, and everyone around me is like, ‘Oh my god, how do you do this?’ But to be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to do so well without these boys, because they motivate me every day,” she said. “The level of maturity needed and the ways that I have changed since I became a mom, it’s a different kind of challenge. If it was just me and I had no kids, I would be so self-absorbed and worried about how law school is so hard and I am so stressed out, and how am I going to meet all these deadlines? But I didn’t feel that, because no matter what, as long as these boys were taken care of, nothing bothered me.”
Students and staff in law were in awe of Halcro, who began her degree three years ago at the start of the pandemic, studying remotely for the first year while raising a one-year-old infant, and trying to pay the bills while her partner Cole was training in fire college.
“Nobody that knows me or knew me in any of my past lives in these last 33 years would have probably ever imagined seeing me in this position that I am in now,” said Halcro. “My first son was about 14 months old when I started law school and my husband was away that whole first year firefighting training up in La Ronge, so it was just me and my little boy, although I did have my in-laws and my parents helping with babysitting.
“And then my whole second year of law school I was pregnant and had the baby over the summer and then went back for my third year. So it all went by so fast. But I really love the law, and I couldn’t see myself anywhere else, so I am just really, really happy with how things have turned out.”
Halcro grew up in the Melfort area and came to USask to earn her first degree in 2017, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Religion and Culture) with Great Distinction and a place on the Dean’s Honour Roll. She received a USask Indigenous Student Achievement Award that year, and was honoured as the most outstanding graduate in Religion and Culture. Her academic excellence continued in the Juris Doctor law program, earning her multiple scholarships and bursaries that proved to be an enormous help for her and her young family.
“After my first year, especially because my grades were so high, the magnitude of the support that I was getting completely changed everything,” said Halcro, who is Métis and received grants from Métis Nation-Saskatchewan and the Indspire organization to help pay the way to law school. “I have had really no financial stress these last two years. I just really want to acknowledge all of the funders that I got money from.”
Halcro received a number of major scholarships, including the MLT Aikins Indigenous Law Scholarship and the Brian A. Crane/Gowling WLG Indigenous Law Scholarship, as well as the College of Law’s Upper-Year Juris Doctor Academic Achievement Scholarship.
“Those scholarships were so important because they covered my tuition, which was just under $60,000 for three years, my mortgage payment, my daycare, it covered everything,” said Halcro. “And the MLT Aikins scholarship, that actually materialized into a job for me, so that is who I am going to be working for (after graduation). They ended up hiring me to article there. And that is the nice thing about law school for most students; if you do it right, everything lines up and you just go right into working after graduation.”
Halcro, who worked for the crown prosecutor’s office in La Ronge in the summer after her first year of law school, is interested in helping Indigenous people navigate their way through the justice system in the future, but wants to explore a variety of areas of law first as she begins her career.
“The unfortunate reality is there are a lot of First Nations people involved in the justice system, so it is definitely somewhere that I can see myself doing, working with Indigenous people from northern Saskatchewan, in particular,” she said. “But my passion is kind of constitutional law and I don’t want to get pigeonholed right away, because I like to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I might want to be a crown prosecutor one day, so I want to practice everywhere and see what I like.”
Wherever she winds up, Halcro will fondly remember where she has been. Looking back on her USask experience, Halcro said she couldn’t have picked a better law school.
“It’s a beautiful campus and I really loved being here and the way that I grew as a person,” she said. “I really changed a lot throughout my law degree, and it was kind of overshadowed by COVID my first couple of years in law. But I made some of the best friends that I could ever have hoped for in law school and it has been so great. So I am really, really happy that I decided to go to University of Saskatchewan. It was the best.”