Twins take top spots in University of Saskatchewan graduating law class

Caydence Marley, left, and her twin sister Kennedy graduated from the University of Saskatchewan's law program at the top of their class. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)
Caydence Marley, left, and her twin sister Kennedy graduated from the University of Saskatchewan's law program at the top of their class. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)

Walking across the stage at Saskatoon's Merlis Belsher Place, there were quite a few things twins Caydence and Kennedy Marley had in common: their graduation gowns, their camera-ready smiles — and their academic drive.

In the end, there was one thing they couldn't have in common when they convocated this week: their final grades. Caydence was awarded the Law Society of Saskatchewan gold medal for the highest academic average through law school, and Kennedy the silver medal just behind her.

Even though the 23-year-old Métis sisters were first and second in their class of more than 100 students, it wasn't the sibling rivalry you might imagine.

"Anything that comes from the gold and silver medals is completely shared by Kennedy and I," Caydence said.

"Somebody had to get the gold. Somebody had to get the silver. It could have been either way. We would have been happy either way."

Dayne Patterson/CBC
Dayne Patterson/CBC

Twins in tandem

The sisters have taken a near parallel path to graduation, both beginning a science degree before shifting into law.

"I realized partway through science, in my first year of university, that I really needed a career that was people-driven, people-oriented and just focused around conversation and people's stories," Caydence said.

Beyond a couple seminars, their studies were identical, not unlike other aspects of their journey. They are two of the three managing editors of the Saskatchewan Law Review, are now doing a clerkship side-by-side at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in Regina — where they assist judges with ongoing cases — and plan to practise criminal defence law.

Chanss Lagaden/CBC
Chanss Lagaden/CBC

"I wouldn't say we make the decision for the next thing together, but it just seems that we always have the same interests; we always have the same goals. It's just how it is when you're an identical twin with the same DNA," Kennedy said.

Caydence said graduating was a special moment, one that has been on their minds for more than five years.

Amidst the bright lights, clicking of camera shutters and cheers from the crowd, her sister Kennedy had two thoughts as she exited the stage: don't trip — and, "Wow, finally this is the end. This is it. This is the moment that you wait for."

The two now have a year before they can write and pass the bar exams to become lawyers. One of their goals is to clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada, although the sisters are also considering pursuing masters degrees.

WATCH | Marley twins share their reaction after crossing the stage:

Academic medals not the most valuable to sisters

Earlier this year, the sisters were both awarded the Order of Gabriel Dumont Bronze Medal for leadership, community service and academic smarts, a Métis civilian honour. It meant more to Caydence than being recognized as the top law student, and every other award she's received.

"To have that recognition was just a very validating feeling, to know that I'm giving back to my community," she said.

The sisters say they've had to work toward reconnecting with their family's Métis heritage, some of which was lost in residential schools. Their law degree and the people they've met, they say, have contributed to reuniting with their culture.

"But I'm really proud of where we are today," Caydence said.

Chanss Lagaden/CBC
Chanss Lagaden/CBC

This is believed to be the first time that Indigenous students have been awarded both the gold and silver medals in the same year, according to Martin Phillipson, dean at the University of Saskatchewan college of law.

"We have a long way to go in Indigenous academia and university experience," Caydence said.

"University has not always been an easy path for Indigenous folks, through our history of residential schools and enfranchisement, and it's important to remember that moving forward we need to support and lift up our Indigenous students."