Appointment of Indigenous Judge Michelle O'Bonsawin: Between Pride and Questions

Appointment of Aboriginal judge Michelle O’Bonsawin : between pride and questions

Justice Michelle O'Bonsawin will be the first Indigenous person to serve on the Supreme Court of Canada.

For the first time , Thursday, an Indigenous judge will officially take office at the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), the highest court in the country. If this consecration delights more than one, it nevertheless intervenes within an institution symbol of colonialism for some.

Independent Senator Renée Dupuis has worked as a lawyer with the First Nations since 1972.

In her eyes, this appointment has significant symbolism, especially since Supreme Court judges are not experts in Indigenous law.

Renée Dupuis, Independent Senator in the Senate of Canada

Her presence is an important symbol because it is a woman who is appointed and because she is an Indigenous woman.

— Renée Dupuis, Independent Senator in the Senate of Canada

According to her, there are two symbols: There is a need to reflect on what this appointment represents, both for women in society in general and both for indigenous women in their communities, but also in society in general.

To hear Senator Dupuis, Michelle O'Bonsawin's determination will be an inspiration to all young women and girls in Canada, whether they are Indigenous or not .

Sydney-Victorie MP Jaime Battiste is also pleased with the appointment.

We have a lot to be proud of and to be able to say that this person understands our reality and feels what it is to be indigenous, he launches.

The one who is also Mi'kmaq from Nova Scotia feels that this is a true page of history being turned.< /p>

Jaime Battiste is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Syndey-Victoria (archives).

For generations, Indigenous people in Canada have looked to the Supreme Court by looking at a court that did not reflect who they were. were, continues Mr. Battiste.

He believes that this appointment is the result of the tireless work of Aboriginal elders, teachers and mentors.

< p class="e-p">If the leader of the Innu community of Ekuanitshit on the lower North Shore, Jean-Charles Piétacho, welcomes this appointment with pride, he lives with apprehensions: I'm not sure I feel proud to go to the Supreme Court to be told that we have the right to this or we have no right to that.

He does not hide his annoyance when he hears Michelle O'Bonsawin say that she is first a judge, then an aboriginal Franco-Ontarian woman.

Jean-Charles Piétacho is the leader of the community of Ekuanitshit (archives).

He also recalls that it is essential to consider the responsibility attached to the mandate of the new judge since she will represent an institution of the highest legal authority which can change our rights.

Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada write important judgments, including those related to Indigenous issues, says Chief Piétacho.

The independence of judges is a cornerstone of the Canadian judicial system . Judicial independence ensures that judges are able to make decisions free from influence and based exclusively on facts and law.

Source: Government of Canada

Indigenous rights have been ignored by Canadian institutions since the beginning of colonization, believes Chief Piétacho to justify his distrust of the institution that is the CSC.

< blockquote class="sc-ciZhAO gbofEG blockquote is-long-quote">

“We are nomadic peoples and we need to be recognized as such, not as Canadians or Quebecers. We're going to have to prioritize our own laws and those unwritten laws have been around for decades.”

— Jean-Charles Piétacho, chief of the Innu community of Ekuanitshit

First Nations leaders never accepted the establishment of Indian reserves, says he.

There will be other judgments that will emanate from the federal system, he argues before adding that it is this same system that has also imposed and decided to create band councils still governed by the federal government.

They created reserves in order to liberate the territory from our presence and we resisted and we must resist again for future generations, concludes Chief Piétacho.

There are institutions that wanted to extinguish our spirit, our culture and who imposed their education on us, recalls Chief Piétacho with a voice imbued with emotions and to add, it is the church and the governments who have tried to eliminate.

“Historical truth must be restored, for example by giving full access to government and religious archives, in order to move towards true reconciliation.

— Renée Dupuis, Independent Senator in the Senate of Canada

During Supreme Court judgments, First Nations brought community elders to explain to judges the culture , the know-how and how the natives lived in the territory. Chief Piétacho mentions in particular the judgment of the Tsilhqot'in Nation c. British Columbia SCC.

These elders left us without ever having been able to see the judgments at the Supreme Court, says Chief Piétacho.

It is not the Supreme Court that can change the lives of people in the communities, but it can influence, explains Renée Dupuis, who raises essential questions, according to her.

What can Michelle O'Bonsawin do as a judge? What could be its contribution? There should be no illusions, according to the senator, who nevertheless hopes that the new judge will be able to directly influence decision-making.

“It you have to call on the government. An Indigenous woman will be named a Supreme Court justice, but what happens with Indigenous issues? »

— Renée Dupuis, Independent Senator in the Senate of Canada

Despite significant progress, the federal and provincial governments persist in thinking that they must educate us, still today and always, does not fail to remind Chef Jean-Charles Piétacho.

Radio-Canada has requested an interview with Judge Michelle O'Bonsawin. The latter declined because she would rather wait for her swearing in before giving interviews. She officially takes office on September 1.

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