Michelle O’Bonsawin is Canada’s first Indigenous Supreme Court judge

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced the historic appointment of the Honourable Michelle O’Bonsawin to the Supreme Court of Canada, effective September 1, 2022. She’s the first Indigenous judge appointed to the country’s highest court.

The Supreme Court of Canada consists of nine judges, including a Chief Justice. They are all appointed by the Governor in Council, and must have been either a judge of a superior court or a member of at least 10 years’ standing of the bar of a province or territory.

Justice O’Bonsawin is an accomplished jurist with expertise in the areas of mental health, Gladue principles, labour and employment law, human rights, and privacy law, and has been a judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa since 2017, a newsrelease from the PMO said. Justice O’Bonsawin holds a B.A., an LL.B., and an LL.M., and completed her Ph.D. in Law earlier this year. A fluently bilingual Franco-Ontarian, she is an Abenaki member of the Odanak First Nation.

This appointment is the fifth under the Supreme Court selection process launched by the Government of Canada in 2016. Through this process, an independent and non-partisan advisory board chaired by the Honourable H. Wade MacLauchlan was tasked with identifying candidates.

Justice O’Bonsawin will fill the vacancy created by the upcoming retirement of Justice Michael J. Moldaver.

The process to select a candidate to fill the upcoming Supreme Court of Canada vacancy was launched on April 4, 2022.

The application process was open for six weeks to qualified applicants from Ontario, in recognition of the convention of regional representation.

From the applications received, the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments members identified jurists of the highest calibre who were functionally bilingual and met the statutory eligibility requirements for an Ontario seat. They then submitted a shortlist to the Prime Minister for consideration.

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