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Speaking up // Best Practices

The legal system doesn’t always understand the needs of Aboriginal people. Litigator Katherine Hensel is trying to change that.

Hensel Barristers serves First Nations, Aboriginal organizations and individuals across the country in civil, criminal and child welfare matters, and in public enquiries. Continue reading at: http://lawandstyle.ca/career/best-practices-speaking-up/

Canadian Lawyers Abroad Internships (some in collaboration with the IBA)

This year the CLA-ACE Student Summer Internship Program is again offering exciting opportunities for adventurous law students looking to kick-start their careers in international law. The Program is open to students from law schools with a CLA-ACE Student Chapter. There are some very interesting internship opportunities available, several of which involve working directly with Indigenous communities across Canada, including in the North. Two of these internships have been developed in collaboration with the IBA. For more information on the internships go to: http://cla-ace.ca/what-we-do/internships/2013-summer-internships/

The deadline for applying for the CLA 2013 summer internships is January 31, 2013 at 11:59pm EST.


We are very pleased to announce our 24th Annual IBA Fall Conference "Indigenous Governance and Jurisdiction over Water" which will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba on October 19-20, 2012. We are also very pleased to be offering a second conference immediately prior to the fall conference that will focus on working to revitalize Indigenous laws. The "Revitalizing Indigenous Laws: Accessing Justice and Reconciliation" conference will run on October 17-18, 2012. We will also be offering practitioner workshops on October 18, 2012 in conjunction with the Revitalizing Indigenous Laws conference. All of these events will be held at the Delta Winnipeg.

Mark your calendar now and save the dates! Register for both conferences and save!

These conferences will be of interest to Indigenous Elders and community members, political leaders, policy analysts, government representatives, lawyers, judges, academics and law students with interests in water, the environment and how to work within Indigenous communities to "draw out law" to support development of Indigenous laws and processes for justice and reconciliation.

Go to conference page here.

World Indigenous Lawyers' Conference 2012
World Indigenous Lawers Conference

Click Here for more Info
2012 President's Award from the Women's Law Association of Ontario

Delia OpekokewCongratulations to Delia Opekokew, IPC on receiving the 2012 President's Award from the Women's Law Association of Ontario. In recognition of her outstanding service within the profession and her leadership role in advancing the position of women and women lawyers in Ontario.

Honourary Doctorates Given Out

Roberta JamiesonAn astronaut, a pharmacologist and a human rights advocate will receive honourary doctorates from Vancouver Island University.

Julie Payette, the second Canadian woman to fly in space, will receive an honourary Doctor of Technology degree. Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, a world-renowned pharmacologist, will receive an honourary Doctor of Science degree and Roberta Jamieson will receive a Doctor of Laws degree for her work promoting the right of First Nations people.

Payette, a spacecraft Communicator for NASA's mission con-trol centre fulfilled her lifelong dream with two space shuttle missions in 1999 and 2009. Kelsey was instrumental in the decision to refuse use of thalidomide, a drug used for sleeping pills, in the U.S. It was developed in the 1950s by a German pharmaceutical company and later proved to cause thousands of severe birth deformities in Germany, Great Britain and Canada.

Jamieson, president and CEO of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, is a member of the Order of Canada, a recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award and the Indigenous Peoples' Council Award from the Indigenous Bar Association.

Ceremonies take place June 4 and June 5 at the Port Theatre.

Roger Jones, I.P.C. – Recipient of the 2011 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Law & Justice

Roger JonesPlease join the Indigenous Bar Association in congratulating Roger Jones, I.P.C., upon receiving the 2011 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Law & Justice.

Roger will receive this honour at the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards on Friday, March 11, 2011 in Edmonton.

Roger is a member of the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation in Ontario. He has been recognized many times for his outstanding achievements in law and policy, including receiving the Indigenous Peoples' Counsel (IPC) designation from the IBA in 2008. Roger has played a key role in several major achievements for Indigenous Peoples in Canada including the development of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Federal Crown-First Nations Political Accord in 2005, and as a participant in Canadian constitutional negotiations.

Roger was the founding president of the IBA and has served on the IBA Board several times. He has been a wonderful role model for young Indigenous lawyers and served as mentor to many.

Please join the IBA in congratulating Roger as he receives the 2011 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Law & Justice!

Photo credit: Koren Lightning-Earle

IBA Newsletter Submission Due Dates
  1. July 13th, 2007 for the Summer Edition
  2. September 21st, 2007 for the Autumn Edition


Read details


The Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court engage 43 law clerks (approximately 12 for the Federal Court of Appeal and 31 for the Federal Court) each year to conduct research on files to be heard by the judges of the Courts...

Read the posting

IBA Concerned About Motives For New Judicial Appointments Process


Read the PressRelease

Letter to Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Justice


Read the Letter

Submissions to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights regarding the demise of the Law Commission of Canada


Read the Submissions

IBA Announces 19th Annual Fall Conference focusing on Indigenous Legal Traditions
SASKATOON, SK, Oct. 21, 2006 – Indigenous Bar Association President, Jeffery Hewitt, announced to IBA fall conference delegates today the location and theme for the 19th annual IBA fall conference.  “The IBA is pleased to announce that, in keeping with the direction received from membership and the IPC, the 19th annual IBA fall conference shall focus on Indigenous Legal Traditions and will be co-hosted with the University of Victoria Faculty of Law.”  The 2007 annual conference is scheduled for October 18-20, 2007 in Victoria, BC.  Further information regarding the 2007 annual conference will be provided through the IBA website and newsletter over the coming months.  
The Fall 2006 Edition and the Special 2006 Student Edition of the IBA Newsletter are now available!

View the IBA Fall Newsletter 2006

View the Special 2006 Student Edition of the IBA Newsletter

NSAHRC Hate Crimes Symposium Report – Now Available

The National Secretariat Against Hate & Racism in Canada, a national initiative of the IBA and diverse ethno-racial and faith-based community organizations to combat racism, commissioned papers and held a symposium in October 2005 on Hate Crimes, the Criminal Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms at Rama Mnjikaning First Nation, Ontario.  The final report is now available.

View the report

Indigenous Lawyers Honoured

Several members of the IBA have recently been honoured by institutions such as the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation and the University of Toronto. 

James (Sakej) Youngblood Henderson and Bernd Christmas are recent recipients of National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. 

 Visit the NAAF website

Professor Darlene Johnston and Jean Teillet were recently recognized by the University of Toronto as “Trailblazers in the Legal Profession.” On International Women's Day, March 8th, 2006, the U of T Faculty of Law unveiled a permanent photo exhibit celebrating 19 remarkable women graduates who are trailblazers in the legal profession.

 Visit the U of T Law website

Indigenous Law Students Participate in National Moot

Indigenous law students from across Canada participated in “Kawaskimhon: Speaking with Knowledge”, the National Aboriginal Rights Moot in Canada on March 2nd-4th, 2006 in Toronto. Osgoode Hall Law School hosted the Moot which explored a consensus based resolution to a labour dispute at a casino on a First Nation.

 Visit the Moot website

Call for Papers: Scow Institute Call for Papers on Aboriginal Issues

The Scow

PO Box14302 Granville Island, Vancouver British Columbia V6H 4J6 Telephone (604)696-1838

2006 Call For Papers on Aboriginal Issues
October, 2006

The Scow Institute for Communicating Information on Aboriginal Issues (“Scow Institute”) issues a call for research papers (“Research Papers”) and fact sheets (“Fact Sheets”) with respect to the following subject areas:

Aboriginal Justice

  • and Aboriginal women;
  • and Aboriginal youth;
  • Aboriginal courts;
  • Aboriginal policing /corrections; and
  • Restorative Justice

Legal issues in respect of

  • Aboriginal people with disabilities;
  • Aboriginal Elders; and
  • Comparative governance structures among Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

For more information about these topic areas and the Scow Institute including current Research Papers and Fact Sheets see www.scowinstitute.ca.

The Scow Institute
The Scow Institute works towards greater understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples through information that is fact based, non-partisan, and accessible on topical issues that affect all Canadians.  The Institute was founded in 2001 by retired Judge Alfred J. Scow, the first Aboriginal person called to the Bar and to the Bench in British Columbia, and other interested persons. The Scow Institute is primarily funded by The Law Foundation of British Columbia and has received funding from the Notary Foundation and Vancity.

Purpose of the Research Papers/Fact Sheets
The Research Papers and Fact Sheets are directed toward Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the general public; libraries; media; business; community organizations; and toward individuals in the fields of education and social services. They will be used for educational purposes in a variety of settings, and they will be available to the public on the Scow Institute web site.

 Invitation to submit proposals
The Scow Institute is seeking any persons with training and experience in the fields of Aboriginal law, social work, health and other related fields to submit proposals for Research Papers and accompanying Fact Sheets intended for the general public. The Research Papers and Fact Sheets should be fact based, non-partisan in tone and content.

All contractors will be remunerated in accordance with Scow Institute policy and the terms of the contract.

Terms of the contract require a Research Paper of 4000 – 6000 words in length.  In addition, the contractor will supply a plain language Fact Sheet on the same topic of 1000 – 1500 words in length.

Style guide
Scow Institute papers should conform to The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, published by Carswell.

The Research Papers and Fact Sheets will be the exclusive property of the Scow Institute.  The Scow Institute will acknowledge the author of the works when they are published or disseminated.

First drafts and bibliographies will be due three months from date of the contract.  Final papers and Fact sheets must be completed within two months after first draft approval.  Payment will be made in two installments, based on approval of first and final drafts.

Legal Review and editing
The Scow Institute may do a legal review of the paper and or a plain language edit.  In all cases, the author will be consulted on any required changes.

Submission process
Please submit via email only i) a research proposal outline in relation to one of the listed subject areas, ii) resume; and iii) one page writing sample no later than 5 pm on November 15th   2006, via:

Email:  info@scowinstitute.ca

For further inquiries:   phone 604-696-1838


Media Release: Access to Justice Stifled by Harper's New Government

RAMA, ON, Sept. 28 /CNW/ - "Tuesday's announcement by the Conservative Government of their intention to eviscerate the Law Commission of Canada and the Court Challenges Program, is a blow to access to justice for Aboriginal people and indeed all Canadians", said Indigenous Bar Association President, Jeffery Hewitt.

Yesterday Prime Minister Harper's New Government announced its plans to "eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs", including, among others, two key institutions promoting access to justice: the Law Commission of Canada and the Court Challenges Program.

"It is unimaginable that any Government in Canada would pointedly suggest that access to justice is wasteful and ineffective. It appears that Harper's New Government put all Canadians on notice this week that our dearly held views that we are a society who cares for the most vulnerable among us is not the Canada that Harper's New Government intends to uphold for us" said Jeffery Hewitt.

By many accounts the Law Commission is a success, perhaps most notably through some of its key initiatives such as: its report entitled "Restoring Dignity: Responding to Child Abuse in Canadian Institutions" , which generated significant research leading to the resolution of abuses against former Aboriginal residential school students; its "Indigenous Legal Traditions" initiative calling for true legal pluralism with the inclusion of legal traditions (common, civil and Indigenous), of all three founding partners of Confederation in Canada's laws; and its "Beyond Conjugality" report that called for a better reflection and protections in law of how Canadians chose to live their lives every day in, traditional marriages, common law partnerships, civil unions, same-sex unions, blended families, and the like.

In addition to eliminating the Law Commission, funding has evaporated for several independent, non-partisan research institutions such as the Court Challenges Program, which assists important court cases that advance language and equality rights guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to Treasury Board president, John Baird, funding for the Court Challenges Program was eliminated because he "didn't think it made sense for government to subsidize lawyers to challenge the government's own laws in court", which incidentally is one of the cornerstones of a progressive and accountable democracy.

With the elimination of these important institutions one is left to assume that Harper's New Government believes it knows best what Canadians need and that does not include the Charter, the Constitution or an accountable government.

In the recent Speech from the Throne, Harper's New Government spoke about the importance of checks and balances in bringing accountability back to government, noting however that the "trust of citizens must be earned every day."

"Ironically" says IBA President "when it comes to justice and accountability in Canada, Harper's New Government has failed to recognize the fundamental importance of checks and balances and on Tuesday failed to earn the trust of Canadians".

For further information: Jeffery Hewitt, President of the Indigenous Bar Association at: jhewitt@indigenousbar.ca or call at (705) 330-6203


AFN Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement Conference for Frontline Workers

The IBA presented to the AFN Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement Conference for Frontline Workers in Vancouver, BC on September 12th, 2006. The IBA presentation addressed Lawyers' Roles & Responsibilities in light of the May 8, 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The presentation had a particular focus on the issues of professional responsibility, the role of law societies in governing the legal profession, and the Guidelines adopted by some law societies to address issues arising out of IRS litigation. Other matters discussed include contingency fee agreements; wills & estates issues; and issues arising when retaining a lawyer.

View the IBA presentation

View the Law Society of Upper Canada Guidelines for Lawyers Acting in Cases Involving Claims of Aboriginal Residential School Abuse

Contact information for all law societies via the Federation of Law Societies website


"IBA and NSAHRC seek support of Canadians for the appointment of Aboriginal Peoples to courts of appeals and Supreme Court of Canada".

The IBA has been working with Canadians, National Aboriginal organizations and others within Canada to promote the necessity to have Aboriginal peoples included in our national institutions.  This effort to engage Canadians has recently been focused specifically on the inclusion of Aboriginal peoples and Indigenous legal Traditions in the courts.   These concerted have resulted in many positive outcomes, including the following:  

  1. The IBA partnered with the Assembly of First Nations to convince Canadians on the merit of appointing an Aboriginal Person to Supreme Court of Canada.  On August 11, 2005 , the Globe and Mail published an Opinion of Phil Fontaine, the National Chief and Dianne Corbiere , the President of IBA with minor editorial changes.  Click here to read the original article.
  2. The IBA works with the Canadian Bar Association Aboriginal Law Section regarding an Aboriginal person needed at Supreme Court of Canada.  See the CBA resolution passed on August 13, 2005 at http://www.cba.org/CBA/resolutions/2005resdebate/
  3. The Canadian Association of Law Teachers (CALT) adopts the position advanced by the IBA that an Aboriginal person should be appointed to Supreme Court of Canada based on convention.  Please read their document located at: http://www.acpd-calt.org/english/docs/SupremeCourt_panel.doc
  4. The National Secretariat against Hate & Racism in Canada (NSAHRC) supports the position on this matter advanced by IBA. Please view their paper at: http://www.indigenousbar.ca/pdf/aborjudges.pdf
  5. Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler appoints the first Aboriginal person to an appellate court in Canada .  Please see article located on the IBA website.

For further information, please contact a member of the IBA Communications Committee.

INDIGENOUS BAR ASSOCIATION: Aboriginal Appointments to Appellate Courts

Recent Events

CBA Resolution - Background

There has been a lot of discussion and good work recently done on ensuring Aboriginal representation on the Supreme Court of Canada as well as on all appellate Courts throughout Canada . These developments, although initiated by the Indigenous Bar Association (IBA), have been accomplished by the coordinated efforts and commitment of many organizations, including the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), its National Aboriginal Law Section and its Standing Committee on Equity. A resolution in support of Aboriginal appointments to the judiciary is currently in progress and will be considered at the CBA's Annual Meeting in Vancouver in August 2005. The IBA encourages all CBA members to educate themselves on these issues to allow for an informed debate at the CBA Annual Meeting on the resolution.

This issue is not new to the CBA. Indeed the CBA has been actively studying, recommending, reporting and passing resolutions on this very issue since the mid-1980's, as Professor Peter Russell recently stated at a well attended joint CBA/IBA conference in Ottawa in March, 2005. Professor Russell noted that the CBA's commitment to promoting the appointment of more Aboriginal judges to all levels of the Courts was first developed in a report he was commissioned to produce on a review of how the judiciary are appointed in Canada . The CBA echoed this commitment in its 1999 Report entitled Racial Equality in the Canadian Legal Profession , and again at its 2000 Mid-Winter Meetings where it adopted Resolution 00-01M which specifically called for a review of appointment criteria in support of Aboriginal appointments at appellate levels.

The commitment to Aboriginal judicial appointments is one that is clearly commonly shared between the CBA and the IBA, and this recent initiative to promote legal pluralism has promoted a growing partnership between these two national organizations.

It is the IBA's view that no issue on any matter should proceed without meritorious debate. The issue of promoting more Aboriginal judges into the appellate Courts of Canada , including the Supreme Court of Canada, has certainly attracted its share of debate.

Some critics say that if Aboriginal Peoples are to be represented on the Courts in a more coordinated way then so too should all of the other groups comprising Canada's multi-cultural mosaic. The IBA agrees that the composition of judges should be more reflective of Canada 's society. That being stated, there are significant differences between Aboriginal Peoples and all other ethno-racial groups comprising Canada that should ground this debate. First, Aboriginal Peoples are the only Peoples recognized in the Constitution Act, 1982 as distinct and whose rights are specifically protected. Second, Aboriginal Peoples founded Canada along with both the English and French - who are already represented by both custom and statute in the Supreme Court of Canada's composition. Therefore, this current initiative for reform does not derogate from any other groups' representation on the Bench but merely serves to uphold the Constitution of Canada and recognize Aboriginal Peoples' role as a founding partner.

Indeed, Peter Hogg has also set out in his presentation to the CBA in March 2005 entitled "Recognition of Indigenous Laws/Reconnaissance du Droit Autochtone, The Constitutional Basis of Aboriginal Rights " that not only is legal pluralism alive in Canada, but that through a series of Supreme Court decisions, including Sparrow , that Aboriginal rights and title have been constitutionally entrenched. Hogg suggests that, logically following such a conclusion, supporting an initiative to ensure Aboriginal representation on the Supreme Court and appellate Courts generally promotes a more fulsome legal analysis of the Aboriginal rights and title.

The National Secretariat on Hate and Racism in Canada is a unique organization in Canada that involves not only Aboriginal Peoples but also very diverse ethno-racial and faith-based communities who are committed to developing a national common effort between Aboriginal Peoples and non-Aboriginal groups in Canada to combat hate and racism. This diverse membership, including voices from the Asian, Black, Arabic and Jewish communities in Canada, have not only publicly promoted the appointment of Aboriginal Peoples to appellate benches but have also promoted the recognition of Aboriginal customary law alongside common and civil laws. Such legal pluralism is one of the cornerstones of Canada 's legal system, which is only served to be enriched by customary law.

Another significant element informing the discussion on this issue is the concept of merit. Leaving aside the fact that the notion of merit itself is subjective, yet typically cited as an objective standard, let's address it. At a minimum, to qualify for the bench one must hold a law degree from a recognized law school and have been called to the Bar in one of Canada 's Provinces for at least ten years. Supreme Court judges may be selected from another bench or the profession directly. In addition to the minimum requirements, merit dictates that appellate judges - indeed all judges - are also of sound character and the brightest legal scholars or advocates. Subscribing to this principle of merit has promoted outstanding representatives to the Supreme Court. So why change it? The IBA is not promoting changing or diminishing merit.

In many ways, promoting the appointment of an Aboriginal member of the Bar to the Supreme Court only serves to expand merit insofar as balancing the scholarship among the Bench to include expertise in Aboriginal law. In the same manner that candidates are also selected for their expertise in a particular area, so too are they selected for their ability to determine all matters before the Court. An Aboriginal appointment does not dilute this notion. There are many Aboriginal candidates who are meritorious in every way and add a long overdue missing element of full representation of confederate partners. Simply put, an Aboriginal appointment does not equate with setting aside or diminishing principles of 'merit' but rather enhances it.

In light of the above, the IBA is confident that the CBA membership will ultimately seek to fully inform itself on this issue and that the CBA will continue along itslongstanding path of promoting Aboriginal Peoples to the Bench, as it has for the better part of the past two decades. The IBA encourages CBA members to review its position paper on this matter, which is available on the IBA website at: www.indigenousbar.ca and to contact the IBA to discuss this with you further. The IBA will continue to work with the various CBA committees and members on this matter and encourages you to contact them as well when seeking more information. Please contact the CBA National, provincial and territorial Aboriginal Law sections of the CBA. You may reach them by contacting Holly Doerkson of the CBA National Office or through the CBA Directory available on-line at: www.cba.org.


The CBA Council adopted a resolution on August 13, 2005 in support of the appointments of Indigenous jurists to all appellate level courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada.

Furthermore, CBA President, Brian Tabor, made submissions to the House of Commons Subcommittee on the Process for Appointment to the Federal Judiciary in November 2005, which specifically addresses the issue of appointment of Indigenous jurists.  For more information visit:

The IBA is scheduled to make submissions House of Commons Subcommittee on the Process for Appointment to the Federal Judiciary on November 22, 2005.

Justice Harry S. LaForme of the Ontario Court of Appeal - the First Indigenous Judge Appointed to a Court of Appeal in a Commonwealth Country

IBA awards the 2005 Indigenous Peoples’ Counsel (I.P.C.) distinction to James (Sakej) Youngblood Henderson …read more


The Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy has put out a call for papers on: "Moving Towards Justice Legal Traditions and Aboriginal and Canadian Justice" The deadline is August 31, 2005. For more information, please refer to link below:
Roger Jones - recipient of the Native Law Centre's Distinguished Aboriginal Lawyer Achievement Award

The Native Law Centre is pleased to present the Distinguished Aboriginal Lawyer Achievement Award to Roger Jones, Senior Legal Advisor to the Assembly of First Nations. This prestigious continental honour is presented every decade to an Aboriginal lawyer who exemplifies the best practices and recognizes significant career achievements . These peer-based awards are dedicated to recognizing outstanding talented individuals who have carried out their legal skills at the highest professional level, who have demonstrated how the legal system can be utilized to push the barriers in society, who use the law in ways to improve Aboriginal livelihoods, and who can be models for young Aboriginal lawyers. These are lawyers who give meaning to the profession's values - lawyers whose careers are a challenge to those who follow.

The Award will be presented in association with the Kawaskimhom 2005 , the annual National Aboriginal Rights Law Moot. The award ceremony will be Friday night, March 4, at the Banquet of the Kawaskimhom 2005 at the Delta Bessborough. Roger Jones will be presenting the keynote lecture at the Banquet.

Roger Jones from the Sagamok Anishnabek First Nation receives this award for his achievements in negotiations, dispute resolution, human rights, and policy. Also the award is based on his broader, contemplative and multi-faceted role of legal counselor to Aboriginal organizations. It recognizes his solid legal skills, competencies and determination to represent First Nations in Canada . He has enhanced the highest principles and traditions of the legal profession and service to Aboriginal peoples. He has achieved results that have a far-reaching national impact and improved the relationship between the legal profession and Aboriginal peoples. He has created a strong mentoring system for young Aboriginal lawyers and was the first president of the Indigenous Bar Association.

The past recipient in 1995 was Mario Gonzales of the Lakota Nation.

The Native Law Centre is a nationally recognized centre for the advancement of Native Law. We are proud to be associated with this award and the sound values it represents.


The President of the IBA was honoured to attend the first appointment of a First Nations judge to the Court of Appeal in Canada on November 11, 2005. The Indigenous Bar Association has been working with other organizations to inform public debate to realize the appointment of more judges in Canada. It is such an honour to see the efforts of Mr. Justice LaForme have led to this appointment.

Dianne G. Corbiere presented Justice Harry S. LaForme with an Eagle head statue carved by a Mohawk artist to honour this historic achievement. The small honorarium exemplifies his achievements to date; he truly soars like an eagle by blazing a trail for other Aboriginal people.

By way of background, Justice Harry S. LaForme is a Mississauga Indian and a member of the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation located in southern Ontario. He was born and raised on his reserve where his mother and some of his family continue to reside and remain active in that First Nation's government.

He is especially proud of having his efforts recognized by his own Aboriginal people with such honours as:

(i) 1997 National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the area of Law & Justice; and

(ii) Aboriginal elders have on two (3) occasions presented him with an Eagle Feather, which symbolise the virtues of honesty, integrity, and respect. The most recent being at his swearing in as a Justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Justice LaForme graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1977 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1979. He articled with the law firm of Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt and joined that firm as an associate in the practice of corporate commercial law. After a brief time with Osler, Hoskin, Justice LaForme commenced his own practice and concentrated on issues involving aboriginal law. His practice afforded him the opportunity to litigate and address matters involving the Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Justice LaForme has appeared before each level of Court and has been privileged in that his practice afforded him the opportunity to have traveled extensively throughout Canada as well as representing Canadian Aboriginal interests in Geneva Switzerland, New Zealand, and British Parliament.

In 1989 Justice LaForme was appointed, through the joint orders-in-council of Ontario and Canada, as Commissioner of the Indian Commission of Ontario. The Indian Commission of Ontario was mandated with the task of assisting the governments of Ontario, Canada and First Nations within Ontario to identify problem issues of mutual concern to all and to further facilitate, mediate and to utilise such other fora as may be required to examine and resolve those issues. The issues undertaken by the Commission under Justice LaForme's direction included, chairing negotiation sessions respecting aboriginal self-government, education, policing of aboriginal communities and land claims.

In 1991 Justice LaForme was appointed by the federal cabinet to Chair the Royal Commission on aboriginal land claims known as the Indian Claims Commission. The Indian Claims Commission was established in 1991 to inquire into and recommend to Cabinet its findings and proposed course of resolution. The process and responsibilities of the Commission included conducting hearings of inquiry on questions of the validation and compensation of aboriginal land claims. The Commission remains an independent appeal mechanism whereby First Nations throughout Canada may have certain land claims issues formally heard by panels of independent Commissioners.

In addition to his work as a practising lawyer and his responsibilities as chairperson of two Royal Commissions, Justice LaForme taught the "Rights of Indigenous Peoples" law course at Osgoode Hall Law School for a term in 1992 and again in 1993. From October 1989 to June 1990 Justice LaForme served as co-chair on the independent National Chiefs Task Force on Native Land Claims. The final report of the task force entitled "First Nations Submission on Claims" was tabled with the federal government on December 14, 1990 and subsequently gave rise to the establishment of the Indian Claims Commission.

In January 1994 Justice LaForme was appointed a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division), which is now titled the Superior Court of Justice, Ontario. At the time of his appointment he was one of only 3 Aboriginal judges ever appointed to this level of trial court in Canada.

Finally, in November 2004 Justice LaForme was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. He is the first Aboriginal to be appointed to sit on an appellate court in the history of Canada.

Congratulations from the Indigenous Bar Association on this historic achievement!


Juridical Reasons for Appointing Aboriginal jurists to the Supreme Court of Canada
Education Endowment for Aboriginal Justice
Download this award information
2005 Annual Legal Dimensions Initiative

The Canadian Association of Law Teachers (CALT), the Canadian Law and Society Association (CLSA), the Canadian Council of Law Deans (CCLD), and the Law Commission of Canada are pleased to announce that the 2005 Annual Legal Dimensions Initiative has been posted.

The theme for the 2005 Legal Dimensions Initiative is "Indigenous legal traditions".  Indigenous communities around the world continue to uphold traditions about law and relationships among people, in particular, governance of community, of the environment and of punishment for wrong-doing. Such traditions - often transmitted orally - provide the basis for good community practices and sound decision-making.  A dynamic law reform agenda should work within a framework that recognizes legal pluralism in its fullest form. What are some of the sources of Indigenous legal traditions in Canada? What are some of the ways for creating greater space and recognition for Indigenous traditions (legal and otherwise) in this country? How can different legal traditions co-exist effectively?

The co-sponsors will select up to six proposals.  The award will consist, first, of an honorarium of $ 3000 to produce the paper.  In addition, the award comprises expenses incurred in traveling to the Annual Meeting of the CALT and/or the CLSA in British Columbia to present the paper as a work in progress (specific location of presentation to be determined); registration fees for the Annual Meeting; two nights hotel accommodation at the meeting site; airfare and ground transportation, as required.

The deadline for submitting applications is Monday, January 31, 2005.

The Annual Legal Dimensions Initiative is a joint project of the Canadian Association of Law Teachers (CALT), the Canadian Law and Society Association (CLSA), the Canadian Council of Law Deans (CCLD), and the Law Commission of Canada.  For more details about the Legal Dimensions 2005 Competition, or for additional information about the scope of the proposals, please consult the program description .

For further information, please visit the Law Commission website at www.lcc.gc.ca

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