Excerpt from "Interviews with Alumni from the 1990s and 200s by Tim Smith", 2011 Department Newsletter.
Erin Eacott graduated with a Major in History in 1997. She is a Prosecutor with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada in Edmonton. She specializes in regulatory prosecutions. Erin notes: “Almost every sector in Canada is regulated and protected federally, be it immigration, food, the nuclear industry, transportation, or the environment. Canada has 97,000 federal regulations, any of which could end up on my desk as an offence if someone commits a violation. My focus is on environmental offences, such as pollution of water, pipeline breaks, and habitat destruction. I am also responsible for Aboriginal constitutional rights cases--cases where an Aboriginal person is charged, say, for fishing out of season. These cases involve historical interpretation of things like treaties and traditional fishing practices, and they require the balancing of Aboriginal rights with the protection of the environment. These cases tie together my passions for both history and the environment.”
Erin recalls that “Queen’s University was an incredible student community. From my first week, I was impressed with the camaraderie. It is often said that there is a certain Queen’s ‘spirit.’ It is true! It exists. This is my fondest memory, along with the beauty of the campus itself. And I made life-long friends. After first year, I changed my major from Biology and French to History. This must have been a good choice because I received an award after 2nd year for the highest average in history courses. I had always had, and still have, a passion for history. As a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist. What I liked best about the Queen’s History department was my small seminar classes where we got to share our opinions. What many people don’t realize is that history isn’t about dates. History isn’t always “the same”. History is about how people at any given time interpreted what was happening, and everyone’s interpretation is different. That’s what is fascinating about history.”
We asked Erin what skills she learned as a History major: “My experience at Queen’s definitely prepared me for law school and for my current job as a prosecutor. I honed my writing skills and I developed my critical analysis skills. In the face of large quantities of material, I learned to prioritize. In my seminars I learned how to make an argument and how to conduct an effective presentation. Law is all about being able to critically analyze a set of facts to determine what law best applies to get the desired outcome--this is more difficult than it initially sounds.” We asked Erin about life outside work. “I am active in charitable fundraising (charity runs, door-to-door canvassing) and I coach ultimate frisbee. My two long-term volunteer commitments are Girl Guides of Canada and the Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation (CMSF). I have been on the Board of Directors for both. Currently, I am leader of a Guide Trex unit – outdoor adventure activities for girls 12-17, and I am the Chair of the Edmonton Committee for the CMSF, an organization which grants the Loran Award for university study based on leadership, community service and character. (Erin is a past recipient of the award—Editor.) I also teach “Introduction to Environmental Law”, a mandatory course for 3rd-4th year environmental engineering students, at the University of Alberta.”
Erin has the following advice for current students thinking about a legal career: “Don’t be wed to the idea of being a lawyer when you come out of law school. Law school can be seen as another liberal arts degree. It provides you with many skills and opens the door to many professions, especially if combined with an MBA or an MPA. It also lets you explore all sorts of interests – there are law courses on women, history, medicine, poverty, international law, business, property, you name it! If there is one key thing that university taught me, it is to always keep your doors open. I never planned to be a History major; I never planned to go to law school; I never planned to be a prosecutor. I had lots of other plans, but as doors opened, things changed. And I’ve ended up in a very good, challenging and satisfying fit for myself, where I feel like I am making a positive contribution to the world around me.”