ALF Letter of Congratulations to Michelle O’Bonsawin

  • August 23, 2022

The Aboriginal Lawyers Forum of the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch extends our most sincere congratulations to the Honourable Madam Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin on becoming the first Indigenous person, member of the Abenaki of the Odanak First Nation, nominated to the Supreme Court of Canada. From diverse Indigenous backgrounds we raise our hands to you and acknowledge the great honour that your nomination marks for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

ALF is a networking and mentoring forum for Indigenous law students, articling students, lawyers and judges. It is through ALF that our volunteers, members and supporters address retention and enhance the stature and influence of lndigenous People in the legal profession. We proudly celebrate the many exemplary accomplishments you have attained over the course of your career. Your in-depth knowledge of key areas that impact Indigenous Peoples, including mental health, Gladue principles in criminal law and the need to strengthen access to justice for Indigenous Peoples, is vital knowledge within the Justice system.

In our view, this nomination is not only historic, but also a vital trajectory for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples seeking to reconcile a colonial past where racist laws and policies inflicted great harm on Indigenous Peoples. Our communities continue to face significant challenges stemming from the horrors of colonization, including the residential school system, 60s scoop and millennium scoop. The ongoing impacts include widespread poverty, inequality in health and education, food insecurity, the overincarceration of Indigenous Peoples and the shameful inaction regarding violence toward women, girls and two-spirited members of our communities. We applaud your nomination which signifies a monumental shift toward true reconciliation and better outcomes for our communities.

Historically, hopeful Indigenous jurists have applied to sit at all levels of court in Canada, we have also faced great adversity by being systemically excluded or dismissed from the process due to internalized and institutional racism. In B.C. we are fortunate to have several Indigenous judges at all levels of court. Starting with the late Judge Alfred Scow (Kwicksutaineuk-ah-kwa-mish) in the BC Provincial Court and retired Provincial Court Judge Marion Buller (Mistawasis First Nation). Further appointments include Justice Leonard Marchand (Okanagan Indian Band) of the BC Court of Appeal, Madam Justice Ardeth We’dalks Walkem (Nlaka’pamux Nation) and Madam Justice Jennifer Power (Metis) of the BC Supreme Court. At the Provincial Court, Judge Steven Point (Skowkale First Nation), Judge Alexander Wolf (Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis), Judge Tina Dion (Kehewin Cree Nation), Judge Linda Thomas (Kamloops Indian Band), Judge Karen Whonnock (Wet’suwet’un) and Judge Raymond Phillips (Lytton First Nations).

In conclusion we write to show our wholehearted support of your nomination. This is a proud a day for Indigenous People across Canada.


Randy Robinson (he/him), Chair
Aboriginal Lawyers Forum