Honourable Michelle O’Bonsawin is a fluently bilingual Franco-Ontarian, she is an Abenaki member of the Odanak First Nation.
Since the inception of the Canadian Supreme Court in 1875, there has never been a Justice appointed from the Indigenous Community. It is saddening to know in its 147 years of existence; it has taken this long to have justice from the Indigenous community that is representative of Canada’s first people.
In 1961, the Honourable Alfred Scow, OB, O.B.C., was the first Indigenous person to graduate from law school in Canada after attending the University of British Columbia. And on September 13, 1971, the Honourable Scow, Hereditary Chief of the Kwicksutaineuk First Nation on Gilford Island, was appointed a judge of the B.C. Provincial Court. Since that time, approximately 67 legal scholars of Indigenous heritage have been appointed to various benches with Canada.
Today, Canada makes history as Judge Michelle O’Bonsawin is nominated as the first person of Indigenous person to serve as a judge on the Supreme Court of Canada.
A member of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa, Justice O’Bonsawin has expertise in mental health, Gladue principles, labour and employment law, human rights, and privacy law. Justice O’Bonsawin holds a B.A., an LL.B., and an LL.M., and completed her Ph.D. in Law earlier this year. A fluently bilingual Franco-Ontarian, she is an Abenaki member of the Odanak First Nation.
If confirmed, Judge O’Bonsawin will replace Honourable Michael J. Moldaver, who announced his retirement earlier in the year. With today’s announcement, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, David Lametti, and the Chairperson of the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments, the Honourable H. Wade MacLauchlan, will present their reasons for nominating Justice O’Bonsawin’s to the House of Commons standing committee on Justice and Human Rights.
“I am pleased to announce the nomination of Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin to the Supreme Court of Canada, which is recognized worldwide for its strength, excellence, and independence. Her nomination is the result of an open, non-partisan selection process. I am confident that Justice O’Bonsawin will bring invaluable knowledge and contributions to our country’s highest court.” The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
In 2016, the Government of Canada announced a new process for Supreme Court of Canada judicial appointments. It included the creation of an independent and non-partisan advisory board to identify qualified and suitable candidates for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Supreme Court of Canada consists of nine judges, including a Chief Justice. They are all appointed by the Governor in Council, and must have been either a judge of a superior court or a member of at least 10 years’ standing of the bar of a province or territory.
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