December 30, 2015
CBC Profiles Five Indigenous Lawyers In Canada
The landscape is changing for indigenous people in Canada, and First Nations issues are finally starting to come to the forefront of Canadian politics and law. But it wasn’t that long ago that indigenous people weren’t allowed to hire lawyers without the government’s permission, and they could only enter law school if they renounced their “Indian status.”
In 1954, when William Wuttunee earned his law degree from the University of Saskatchewan, he became Western Canada’s first status Indian lawyer. Since then, and likely thanks to him, there are many successful indigenous lawyers across the country.
Today, the CBC profiled five of those lawyers who are working to make a difference, both in their communities and Canada-wide.
First on the list is Donal Worne, who is one of the founding members of the Indigenous Bar Association of Canada, and a Cree lawyer in Saskatoon. He works with families fighting against police and the justice system. He also recently worked for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
One of the three women on the list is Jean Teillet, who is the great-grandnice of Louis Riel. In 2003, she won a victory in the Supreme Court of Canada for a Métis man who was charged with hunting without a license. She also won a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
Christa Big Canoe is the legal advocacy director of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. She fights passionately for First Nations women and children, and she is currently representing six families of students whose deaths are the subject of an inquest in Thunder Bay.
The third woman on CBC’s list is Katherine Hensel, who established Hensel Barristers in 2011 and then served as counsel during the British Columbia Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry for the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
The last on the list is Caleb Behn, who only just graduated from law school and is waiting to be called to the bar. Even without his robes, he has been working to fight fracking in Northern British Columbia.
Read more about each of these indigenous lawyers at cbc.ca.