Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday nominated an Indigenous person to join Canada’s Supreme Court, a first for the country’s highest court. Michelle O’Bonsawin, a judge on Ontario’s Superior Court since 2017 and an Abenaki member of the Odanak First Nation, will join the court in September when a long-serving member retires, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
“O’Bonsawin is a widely respected member of Canada’s legal community with a distinguished career. I’m confident that she’ll bring invaluable knowledge to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau tweeted after the news was released. Justice Minister David Lametti offered up his support, calling the move a “a historic moment for the (Supreme Court of Canada), and for all of Canada,” on Twitter.
The move comes as Canada seeks to address the over-representation of Indigenous people in its prisons. Indigenous adults represent 5% of Canada’s general population but 30% of its federally incarcerated population. Canada’s Supreme Court has nine judges, including one chief justice, and members can serve up to the age of 75. A nonpartisan advisory board recommends candidates, but the justices are ultimately appointed by the ruling government.
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