Bachelor of Arts (Hons.), International Development Studies and Contemporary Studies, 1999
I wanted a career that pushed me intellectually all the time.
Matt Sherrard’s career path can be understood as “A Tale of Two Meals” (with apologies to Dickens).
The first was a vegan meal of chapati and spicy curry. Not just spicy, “fiery,” Matt says.
He was in Western India at that time, working on an internship he had set up himself. That meal was standard fare that he shared with the others on the World Bank project.
“I was the only non-Indian of eight researchers,” Matt says. “We were out in the middle of the desert, beyond where the roads disappeared. This project was an analysis of the poverty conditions in part of Rajasthan. I was just a student, but among other things, I offered a novelty attraction. I’m six foot four, so a good foot taller than most people there. People wanted to come and see me. It gave us a chance to talk with many more people than we might have otherwise. It literally opened doors.”
The work he did there became the focus of his honours thesis in international development.
The second meal couldn’t have been more different. It was in northern Quebec, in the Cree community of Chisasibi. Matt visits the area in his current work as a partner with the law firm Gowling WLG. The James Bay Cree signed the first modern day treaty in Canada in the 1970s, when massive hydro projects were developed on their land. Now, Matt advises his Cree clients on issues of governance, negotiations with federal and provincial governments, and on Nation-to-Nation agreements. The memorable meal he had in Chisasibi was to honour a local Cree woman.
“We had a feast of traditional food harvested by local hunters. This feast was really remarkable. I had a huge plate of all these different country foods, including rabbit, goose, caribou, moose and bear.” Matt laughs and then gives the punch line. “Then they came around with the tray of beaver, including a roasted beaver head.”
Matt cleaned his plate.
Matt had a few stops on his journey from the deserts of India to the coast of James Bay. He worked on exchange projects in North Africa, the Carribean, Latin America and Russia for Canada World Youth. He also worked in a scuba diving centre on the Red Sea. But he was looking for a different kind of experience in those days. So he went back to school to get his law degree.
“This is where it loops back to my King’s experience,” he says. “I was looking for a real intellectual challenge. I wanted a career that pushed me intellectually all the time. With law, I am always thinking and learning new things. My King’s and liberal arts background were a great foundation. The critical thinking and debate that I learned at King’s serve me every day”.
It’s also a career that satisfies him in other ways.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from my practice. On top of that, I feel that I am helping to make a difference,” Matt says. “It is important work. The whole process of reconciliation is a tremendous challenge. But I feel honoured to assist the Cree Nation to continue to move forward in its nationhood. It’s really exciting times.”