Our second panel in the Gender Justice Now series explored the uses and limitations of the colonial legal system for advancing equality for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA persons.

The panel featured Dr. Lynn Gehl, Beth Kotierk, Naiomi Metallic, Alana Robert, and Breanne Lavallée-Heckert. You can see bios for our panelists below. A transcript of the panel discussion is available here.

For more information on the uses and limitations of the legal system for advancing Indigenous rights, take a look at Alana Robert’s report – Using the Legal System to Advance Equality for Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA Persons.

Lynn Gehl

Lynn is both a writer and an artist. Her work encompasses both anti-colonial work and the celebration of Indigenous knowledge. She challenges Canada’s practices, policies, and laws of colonial genocide such as the land claims and self-government process, the sex-discrimination in the Indian Act, the continued destruction of Akikpautik / Chaudière Falls an Anishinaabeg sacred place, and Canada’s lack of policy that addresses that Indigenous women and girls with disabilities are bigger targets of sexual violence. She weaves wampum belts, builds petro-forms, paints, and plays with digital art. She has two books – The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin on the Algonquin Land Claims Process; and Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit. Currently she is in the final stages of editing a manuscript on her Charter challenge regarding INAC’s unknown and unstated paternity policy. She is also researching the history of Akikpautik. Lynn is frequently called upon as an expert by various media outlets to offer commentary on Indigenous issues.

Beth Kotierk

Beth Kotierk is originally from Igloolik, Nunavut and she grew up in Ottawa, Ontario.  She studied Sculpture and Installation and Indigenous Visual Culture at OCAD University in Toronto before going to law school at the University of Ottawa. She is currently a civil lawyer at Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik (Legal Services Board of Nunavut) in Iqaluit, where she also completed her articles. After completing her articles, she worked with Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa on land and housing issues through the Canadian Bar Association’s Young Lawyer’s International Program (YLIP).

Naiomi Metallic

Naiomi Walqwan Metallic is from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation in Gespe’gewa’gi.  She is an Assistant Professor at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, where she holds the Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy. She holds a BA (Dalhousie), an LLB (Dalhousie), an LLL (Ottawa) and an LLM (Osgoode), and was a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada. Naiomi continues to practice law with Burchells LLP in Halifax. As a legal scholar, she is most interested in writing about how the law can be harnessed to promote the well-being and self-determination of Indigenous peoples in Canada. 

Alana Robert

Alana Robert is a Manitoba Métis lawyer who works as a Litigation Associate at McCarthy Tétrault in Toronto. She founded Justice For Women Manitoba, serves on the Board of Directors of the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto, and recently completed a discussion paper for LEAF on using the legal system to advance equality for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Alana’s advocacy focuses on combating gender-based violence and violence against MMIWG2S. Her work in this area has been recognized by the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case and the Indspire Métis Youth Award.

Breanne Lavallée-Heckert (Moderator)

Breanne Lavallée-Heckert is a Métis (Michif) woman from Red River on Treaty 1 Territory. Breanne is currently a graduate student pursuing a Master of Laws at McGill University. Her research focuses on Métis constitutionalism and law revitalization. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights from the University of Winnipeg, and a Juris Doctor and Bachelor of Civil Law from McGill University. Breanne currently sits as a member of LEAF National’s Board of Directors.

LEAF acknowledges the support of Women and Gender Equality Canada for this panel series.