Canadian lawyer and political figure Bill Wilson has been honoured with the Aboriginal Lawyers Forum Special Contribution Award, along with three exceptional university students who were given the ALF Student Appreciation Awards.
The Aboriginal Lawyers Forum is a networking and mentoring forum for law students, law graduates and lawyers. The ALF Special Contribution Award recognizes a firm or individual's contribution to Indigenous people in the legal profession.
Bill Wilson (Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla) of the Kwagiulth (Kwakwaka’wakw) Nation has been an advocate for Indigenous rights since law school. He was the second Indigenous person to graduate from law school in British Columbia from UBC’s Allard School of Law in 1973.
Wilson is a highly influential figure with decades of service in Canadian law and politics. He is known for his trailblazing achievements in organizational and institutional change, advancing the visibility and unity of Indigenous peoples. One of his most notable accomplishments was the successful negotiation of an amendment to Canada’s Constitution in Section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982, enshrining Indigenous title to traditional lands and treaty rights as well as equality of Indigenous women.
“This award allows us to shine light on someone who has dedicated their career and often their life to advancing Indigenous rights. Bill Wilson embodies that purpose. His work has been foundational to where we are today and his legacy continues,” shared Michelle Casavant, Co-Chair of the CBABC Aboriginal Lawyers Forum.
Willson is the father of Jody Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and Kory Wilson, the Chair of the BC First Nations Justice Council.
The ALF Student Appreciation Awards are given to Indigenous law students who have shown consistent dedication to Indigenous people in the field of law. This year’s recipients were Cheyenne Campbell (Fort Nelson First Nation) of UBC Allard Law, Bailie Copeland (Red River Métis) of TRU Law and Ashley Roussel (Sweetgrass First Nation) of UVic Law.
The awards were presented on Friday, November 24, 2023, at the 13th Annual ALF Holiday Banquet, where the keynote speaker was Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin. Justice O’Bonsawin is the first Indigenous jurist on the Supreme Court and is an Abenaki member of the Odanak First Nation.
The Canadian Bar Association is the professional organization representing over 38,000 lawyers, judges and law students across Canada with 7,800 members in British Columbia. CBABC members practice at the forefront of the justice system, providing services to British Columbians in every area of law. CBABC is located on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam First Nations.
Laura Chapman, Media and Communications Coordinator
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