Michelle O’Bonsawin – Canada’s first Indigenous jurist to the Supreme Court of Canada

The National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) welcomes the nomination of Canada’s first Indigenous jurist to the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin.

We commend the federal government on taking this important step toward ensuring our highest court better reflects Canada’s diversity, while also maintaining gender parity. In August 2020, NAWL sent a letter, endorsed by dozens of organizations, to the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, advocating for the nomination of women and/or men who are Indigenous, Black, racialized and/or from other equality-seeking communities, to fill the two Ontario vacancies on the Supreme Court. In his 2020 response, the Prime Minister recognized that “Canada is strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them.”

The court, and indeed Canada, will benefit from both Justice O’Bonsawin’s professional experience, as well as her lived experience as an Indigenous person. Considering Indigenous people are over-represented in our criminal justice system, and often experience the impacts of the law in unique and unequal ways, we are heartened to see a Supreme Court nominee with specific expertise related to Gladue principles.

While NAWL welcomes more diversity on our highest court, more must be done to ensure that the judiciary and judicial institutions at every level truly represent all communities in Canada. Our constitutional guarantees of equal protection and equal benefit of the law demand no less.