Speakers

Jeannette Corbiere-Lavell

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Jeannette is a strong Anishinabe woman, fluent in her language and culture and a member of the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island in Ontario. 

Dedicated to the causes of Aboriginal women for over forty years. Jeannette challenged the gender discrimination in the Indian Act, going to the Supreme Court of Canada to ensure equality for Aboriginal women in the early 1970's. She is a founding member and past president of several Aboriginal women's organizations; including the Ontario Native Women's Association, Indigenous Women of the Americas, Anduhyaun, a native women's residence and the Native Women's Association of Canada.

Jeannette has worked tirelessly as a teacher and school principal, education and employment counselor, accomplished advocate, cabinet appointee and consultant on matters related to law, justice, equality and Indian status. She is the co-editor of a book, "Until Our Hearts Are on the Ground: Aboriginal Mothering, Oppression, Resistance and Rebirth." Jeannette has also served on many board of directors and has worked to advance issues of concern for Aboriginal women in Canada and internationally and has been awarded with numerous awards, honours and distinctions. 

In 1987 the Ontario Native Women's Association established the Jeannette Corbiere-Lavell Award, "to be presented annually to a deserving Native Woman demonstrating the same qualities and dedication as Jeannette." 


Sharon McIvor

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Sharon's grandmother was a member of the Lower Nicola Band -- part of the Nlaka'pamux Nation -- who married a non-Indigenous man. As a result of prevailing rules that determined Indian status on the basis of male lineage, their daughter was ineligible for registration as an Indian.

As a result, neither McIvor nor her siblings were deemed to be Indians because their ineligible mother married a non-Indian. McIvor would also marry a non-Indian and had three children, including Grismer. Sharon McIvor and her son Jacob Grismer filed the petition to the UN Human Rights Committee in November 2010 and in Janurary 2019 the United Nations Rights Committee ruled on this case, stating that Canada still discriminates against FN women and their descendants through status requirements under the Indian Act despite several amendments since 1985.

Yvonne Bedard

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Yvonne, from Six Nations Reserve in southern Ontario, was a respondent in the Canada (AG) v Lavell, [1974]. This case was a landmark 5–4 Supreme Court of Canada decision holding that Section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act[1] did not violate the respondents' right to "equality before the law" under Section 1 (b) of the Canadian Bill of Rights. She brought legal action against her band in a precedent-setting case. She, along with Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, challenged the Indian Act, especially it’s institutionalization of colonial patriarchy in band governance and housing regulations.

Lynn Gehl

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Lynn Ghel, Ph.D., is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe. She is an advocate, artist, writer, and an outspoken critic of colonial law and policies that harm Indigenous women, men, children, and the land. Her 2014 book based on her doctoral work “The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin on the Algonquin Land Claims Process” was published with Fernwood Publishing. Her 2017 book explores her journey deeper into Indigenous knowledge and was published with the University of Regina Press titled “Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit”. In April 2017 Lynn was successful in defeating Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s unstated paternity policy when the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled the sex discrimination in the policy was unreasonable.  

Alanis Obomsawin

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Alanis is a member of the Abenaki Nation and has created at least 50 documentaries in her long career with the National Film Board.  Some of her well-known films include Kahnesatake: 270 Years of Resistance; Incident at Restigouche; and Trick or Treaty?  Her work has been recognized with many distinguished awards including a National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Order of Canada, and Governor-General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.  She has been honoured by numerous professional organizations and holds several honorary doctorates.  She is also a singer/songwriter and printmaker.  Her 1988 album Bush Lady, featuring traditional songs of the Abenaki people, was recently re-released. 

Tony Mandamin

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Tony is an Anishnawbe member of the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. He was educated at University of Waterloo (B.A.Sc. – Electrical Engineering 1971) and University of Alberta (LL.B. 1982). He was called to the Alberta Bar in 1983.

He was Faculty Coordinator for Aboriginal Justice Seminars at the Banff School of Management and Adjunct Professor at the University of Alberta School of Native Studies, Commissioner and Chairperson of the Edmonton Police Commission (1991 – 1995) and President of the Canadian Native Friendship Centre in Edmonton, Alberta (1990).  Justice Mandamin also held the position of Provincial Court judge in the Calgary Criminal Division of the Provincial Court of Alberta (1999 – 2007). Justice Mandamin has promoted legal education and training for Indigenous students throughout his legal career. As an Alberta Provincial Court Judge, he presided over the Call to the Bar for several Indigenous law candidates, including three ceremonies held on First Nations reserves in the presence of the Indigenous student assemblies. As a Federal Court Justice, he encouraged Indigenous law students to apply for Federal Court law clerkship and six of his 11 law clerks were Indigenous.

Shelagh Day

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Shelagh has been highly active in human rights activism and legal reform since she was hired as the first human rights investigator in British Columbia history. After earning an undergraduate degree in Minnesota in 1963, Shelagh was awarded a master’s degree at Harvard University in 1964. She began teaching at the University of British Columbia soon after. 

After helping organize the country’s first women’s studies courses (open gatherings that drew hundreds of people to large lecture halls every week), Day authored a report on the status of women at the university. A year later she was working for Kathleen Ruffat the provincial human rights Branch. After leaving the Branch in 1978, Day had a distinguished career promoting human rights across Canada, including as Chair of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. Shelagh was awarded the Order of Canada in 2014.

Gwen Brodsky

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Gwen is a leading national and international expert on human rights law. She has extensive experience arguing constitutional equality rights cases before tribunals and courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada. She has also appeared before human rights commissions and treaty bodies of the United Nations and the Americas. For over a decade, her work has focused on the interconnections between equality rights, social and economic rights, and Aboriginal rights and on the means of fulfilling them in constitutional and human rights contexts. She represented the Native Women’s Association of Canada on the issue of the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She is counsel to the petitioners in McIvor v Canada, a challenge to the continuing sex discrimination against Indigenous women and their descendants in the Indian Act. Gwen has written extensively about equality rights theory, social and economic rights, the Charter, the duty to accommodate, and access to justice problems experienced by members of disadvantaged groups. She has taught at the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, and in the Akitsiraq Law Program in Iqaluit. In 2013–14, she was a distinguished visiting scholar at the University of British Columbia. 

Mary Eberts

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 Mary received her B.A. and LL.B. from the University of Western Ontario and her LL.M. from the Harvard Law School. She was called to the bar of Ontario in 1974.  From 1974 to 1980, she taught at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, leaving there to join the litigation department at Torys, where she became a partner in January 1984.  In 1994, she established a small specialized litigation practice in Toronto, from which she does equality litigation across Canada.  In 2004-2005, she held the Gordon Henderson Chair in Human Rights at the University of Ottawa.

Educated at Western University and Harvard law schools, Mary has appeared as counsel to parties and interveners in the Supreme Court of Canada, Courts of Appeal and Superior Courts in Ontario and other provinces, the Federal Court and Court of Appeal, and before administrative tribunals and inquests across Canada. She was instrumental in securing the present language of section 15 of the Charter, and was one of the founders of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF).  Since 1991, she has been litigation counsel to the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).

Judy Rebick

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Judy is one of Canada’s best-known feminists. She is the former president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and was a spokesperson for the pro-choice campaign that won legal abortion in Canada in the 1980’s.  From 2002 until 2010, Judy held the Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, having been appointed to it upon its creation.   She hosted two national TV shows on CBC in the 1990’s and is also the founding publisher of rabble.ca, Canada’s most active independent online news and discussion site.

Judy has authored several books, including Ten Thousand Roses: The Making of a Feminist Revolution and her most recent memoir,  Heroes in My Head.

Judy has worked as an ally with Indigenous peoples from Oka to Idle No More with a special effort to support Indigenous Women during the Charlottetown Accord. 

Fred Kelly

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Fred (Kizhebowse Mukwaa – Kind Walking Bear) has lived a life of leadership at the local, regional, provincial, national levels and international levels.  He is a citizen of the Ojibways of Onigaming, Treaty #3 territory.  He is a member of the Midewiwin Lodge and a highly respected Elder.  He has served in numerous consulting positions in relation to treaties, governance, child welfare, and residential schools.  He was part of the AFN negotiating team that concluded the Indian Residential School Settlements Agreement.  He has had an extensive career as a consultant, international speaker and advisor.