Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum of NAN said she was very impressed by the biography of Michelle O’Bonsawin, a current member of Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa who was appointed by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau for a soon-to-be vacant seat. Current Justice Michael J. Moldaver is retiring on Sept. 1.
O’Bonsawin spoke in front of a parliamentary committee in Ottawa on Wednesday.
With her appointment to start on Sept.1, O’Bonsawin will be the first Indigenous justice to sit on Canada’s highest court.
According to her posted biography, O’Bonsawin is a fluently bilingual Franco-Ontarian who is an Abenaki member of the Odanak First Nation. Achneepineskum said it will speak volumes in terms of building that relationship with Indigenous peoples when O’Bonsawin’s appointment is official and that the Supreme Court should be representative of the people in Canada including First Nations.
She realizes anyone in O’Bonsawin’s position has to be a judge first regardless of their background, said Achneepineskum. “Where we will have faith [is] that she will have knowledge of the First Nations of this country. I think that’s very valuable in terms of this as an opportunity to build trust and faith of the Canadian court system.”
Seeing Indigenous women succeed at the highest levels is important, said Achneepineskum who also referenced Nicole Mann, the first Native American woman astronaut who is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station in September. “It’s a very positive affirmation for any female to say you know what? If she can do it, then there’s a chance that I can do it too,” she said.
Achneepineskum said O’Bonsawin’s nomination is a good start and she will continue to advocate for more. “Moving forward, we certainly need to have a process of inclusion, input into all levels of the courts.”
O'Bonsawin was officially appointed Friday morning.
Update: The article has been updated to reflect Michelle O'Bonsawin's official appointment announced by the Prime Minister on Friday morning.
Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source