#365 Indigenous: Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

Ms. Turpel-Lafond is an Indigenous lawyer of Cree and Scottish descent and a senior associate with Woodward & Company LLP. Ms. Turpel-Lafond, or Aki-kwe, is recognized internationally for her pioneering work on Indigenous justice. In addition to holding honorary degrees from nine international universities, she holds a doctorate in law from Harvard Law School and a master’s in international law from Cambridge University.

During her decade of advocacy for children and youth, Mary Ellen worked first as a judicial court judge in Saskatchewan and later as the representative for Children and Youth in BC (2006-2016). She has deep connections with elders, individuals and community leaders working to address the legacy of residential schools for children and youth today by reforming child welfare, language revitalization and criminal justice innovation.

Time Magazine named her as one of the top 20 Canadian leaders for the 21st century, and one of 100 Global Leaders of Tomorrow. 

Writing in a recent Globe and Mail op-ed, Turpel-Lafond says, “Beyond memory, discovery, learning and documentation – processes in which we all have a responsibility to participate – there is the other responsibility that lies with all of us, and our governments: to enact real change.”

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is Director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre and a professor with the Peter A. Allard School of Law. Turpel-Lafond has been outspoken about the need for justice for survivors, and action by settler governments, institutions, and communities. 

She is the author of over 50 reports including “In Plain Sight,” a report addressing racism in the BC health care system. Currently, she is representing the Union of BC Indian Chiefs in their intervention supporting Heiltsuk Nation’s B.C. Human Rights tribunal complaint, launched in the wake of the Vancouver Police Department’s arrest and handcuffing of an Indigenous grandfather and his 12-year old granddaughter as the pair attempted to open a bank account in Vancouver. #strongascedar

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