Michelle O’Bonsawin is the first Indigenous woman to be nominated to Supreme Court of Canada

Aug 19 2022, 4:35 pm

Ontario-born Michelle O’Bonsawin has become the first Indigenous woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court of Canada in the country’s history.

“I am pleased to announce the nomination of Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin to the Supreme Court of Canada, which is recognized worldwide for its strength, excellence, and independence,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday.

“Her nomination is the result of an open, non-partisan selection process. I am confident that Justice O’Bonsawin will bring invaluable knowledge and contributions to our country’s highest court.”

The selection process for the role began on April 8 and was open for six weeks to Ontarian applicants with the right qualifications.

O’Bonsawin has had a stellar career in law spanning over two decades and is highly respected by the bar and bench. An Abenaki member of the Odanak First Nation, she was born in Hanmer, a town near Sudbury. She speaks both English and French.

“As an Abenaki woman, I feel strongly about Indigenous issues and access to justice in the French language,” she told the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice (CIAJ) as a board member last year.

O’Bonsawin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Laurentian University, a Bachelor of Law from the University of Ottawa, a Master of Law from Osgoode Hall Law School, and a Doctorate in Law from the University of Ottawa.

When she first chose to study law, O’Bonsawin did not aspire to become a judge. After a representative from the commissioner’s office inspired her in her legislation class, her aspirations shifted.

“He explained to us the requirements to become a judge. He told us the perfect judge was a bilingual, Indigenous woman,” she said. “I thought, ‘Hey, that’s me! This is my future goal!'”

She achieved that goal, but she also went on to make history — and not just once.

O’Bonsawin was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa in 2017. She was the first Indigenous woman to become a judge of that court as well.

She will be replacing the Honourable Michael J. Moldaver, who officially retires on September 1.

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