Robert Russo

Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Resolution Manager
Montreal, Canada
Vancouver, Canada
Unionization of Temporary Foreign Agricultural Workers in Canada
Catherine Dauvergne

Where and what is your current position?

I represent the Government of Canada at tribunal hearings to resolve claims of serious physical and sexual abuse committed at Indian Residential Schools in Canada.

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

Yes. I intended to have a legal career, either as an advocate or practising lawyer, teaching or working in policy in government or academia.

How does this job relate to your graduate degree?

My doctoral work involved analysis of government law and policy, which is also applicable to my professional work. There are aspects of civil claims against the Federal Government relating to abuses in the temporary foreign worker programs that are similar to claims launched in the context of residential schools. Both deal with federal programs or institutions that raised serious issues relating to human rights and the responsibility of the state to protect those rights.

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

I was motivated to pursue graduate legal studies at UBC by the quality of the supervision. My PhD supervisor is an internationally recognized expert and leader in her field of law. I also worked with her in the past and found her to be extremely supportive and encouraging.

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?

I enjoyed attending many national and international conferences where I got to listen to very interesting presentations and be exposed to some ground-breaking research. I very much enjoyed meeting and networking with other graduate students and professionals at these conferences, and I found the connections that I made have lasted beyond my studies and have proven invaluable in my career.

What are key things you did that contributed to your success?

I try to avoid too much stress. I find that by planning things through, most of the stress in graduate studies can be avoided. Some unexpected situations that are unavoidably stressful, so I often use meditation or exercise to keep my focus on my goals.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

Choose a career that you don't hate. It sounds simple, but many students do not think through their career choices and simply calculate their career options on the basis of perceived income. You do not have to love your jobs, but if you like them you will last much longer and in the long run be better off financially. I would also advise choosing a career that gives you a sense of satisfaction in having accomplished something meaningful to you in your life.

Did you have any breaks in your education?

I had a five-year break between my first undergraduate degree and my law degree. It was a planned break, which allowed me to try out other career opportunities. In the end it was a great choice, as I returned to school much more enthusiastic and with some additional experience that proved helpful in my studies. I would encourage anyone to take a break and to not feel that they are under pressure to complete multiple programs in quick succession.

What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?

My work is very important and contributes to resolving a very painful and significant chapter in the history of Canada and its relationship with First Nations. I get to travel to many communities and meet many individuals. I am honoured to listen to their experiences and hopefully be a part of resolving their claims.