Michelle O’Bonsawin will become the first Indigenous justice to serve on the nation’s Supreme Court

Canada has begun a process of reconciliation with its Indigenous peoples. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has thus decided to appoint, Friday August 19, the indigenous judge Michelle O’Bonsawin to the Supreme Court of the country, which constitutes a historic first.

” I’m convinced that [Michelle O’Bonsawin] will bring invaluable knowledge and contributions to our nation’s highest court.”the prime minister said in a statement.

Mme O’Bonsawin is ” perfectly bilingual “ in French and in English, which Justin Trudeau had promised, at a time when the practice of French is declining in Canada, according to recent official data.

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“Diverse Perspectives”

A judge at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice since 2017, she has specialized in the fields of mental health and human rights.

“I believe that my experience as a First Nations Francophone woman, mother, lawyer, scholar and judge gives me a deep first-hand understanding and knowledge of Canada’s diversity because I and my life experience are part of this diversityshe wrote in the form she filled out to become a candidate and which was made public.

“My experiences have taught me that although discrimination is a reality in Canada, my abilities allow me to contribute my part to our country and help us to be a more inclusive society”she added.

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His appointment was hailed by Murray Sinclair, former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, a six-year national inquiry into residential schools for Indigenous children established in Canada between the late 19e century and the 1990s.

“The Court is stronger and our decisions are better when there are diverse perspectives where they are needed most. This is especially true on issues related to Canada’s long road to reconciliation.the former senator said in a statement. It is long overdue for the Court to have a seat for an Indigenous judge, a judge who has first-hand knowledge of the impact of colonialism on Indigenous communities. »

Visit of Pope Francis

The discrimination suffered by Indigenous people is at the heart of a major debate within Canadian society, particularly since the discovery, in the spring of 2021, of hundreds of graves on the site of a former religious boarding school reserved for Indigenous people.

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Pope Francis traveled to Canada at the end of July to apologize for the abuses perpetrated by members of the Church in residential schools for natives.

With this appointment, Michelle O’Bonsawin becomes the fifth magistrate selected by Justin Trudeau out of nine sitting on the Court. The Liberal Prime Minister thus left his mark on the highest legal body in the country.

In 2016, Mr. Trudeau’s government carried out a profound reform of the method of appointing judges in order to guarantee the independence and transparency of their decisions. A “independent and impartial advisory committee” was set up to recommend candidates “qualified”, “bilingual” and from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

The current nine high court judges – three women and six men – were appointed by the Governor-General, representing Queen Elizabeth II, on a proposal from the government. The judges are irremovable and can serve until the age of 75. Mme O’Bonsawin is to replace Michael Moldaver, who is retiring.

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A non-binding procedure must still take place by the end of August before a parliamentary commission before Michelle O’Bonsawin takes office. Then, it will be up to Mary Simon, the first Aboriginal Governor General, to confirm the appointment of the first Aboriginal magistrate.

Another appointment made Supreme Court history last year, when Mahmud Jamal became the first non-white person appointed to the court.

The World with AFP

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