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LSO honours Indigenous rights advocate with doctor of laws degree

Friday, September 27, 2019 @ 1:05 PM | By John Chunn

The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) presented a degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa (LLD), to distinguished Indigenous advocate Delia Opekokew at its Call to the Bar ceremony on Sept. 25 at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.

According to the LSO's press release, the law society awards honorary doctorates at call ceremonies each year to distinguished people in recognition of outstanding achievements in the legal profession, the rule of law, or the cause of justice. Recipients serve as inspirational keynote speakers for the new lawyers attending the ceremonies.

Opekokew received the honorary LLD in recognition of her advocacy work in furthering the cause of justice for Indigenous people and human rights for all Canadians.

A member of the Canoe Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, Opekokew was the first Indigenous woman to be called to the bars of Ontario (1979) and Saskatchewan (1983). Early in her legal career, she pressed for recognition of the survivors of residential schools, one of which she attended for several years. She was also the first woman to run for the leadership of the Assembly of First Nations.

She was appointed from 2008-17 as a deputy chief adjudicator on the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). Prior to that, she was an adjudicator on the IAP IRSSA and was also an adjudicator under the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Process created by the government of Canada (2004-09).

Since 1990, she has practised as a sole practitioner, specializing in Indian treaty rights and Aboriginal law.

Opekokew has received many awards, including the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (2009), the Women’s Law Association of Ontario President’s Award (2012), the Law Society Medal (2013) and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations’ Saskatchewan First Nations Women’s Commission’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2016).