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Law Centre: Innovation, Experimentation, Research

Researcher Profiles

Meet Researcher Pamela Palmater

Picture of Pamela Palmater Smiling

Meeting Mi’kmaw lawyer, Ryerson professor, and Chair in Indigenous Goverance Pamela Palmater is a one-of-a-kind encounter. Read on to see why!

Pamela is: an inductee of the Bertha Wilson Society from Dalhousie’s Shulich School of Law bestowed on her for her social justice legal advocacy work with First Nations; a Woman of Courage in Social Justice for her grassroots community work in First Nations; and a YWCA Woman of Distinction in Social Justice for her tireless advocacy on behalf of Indigenous women, girls and communities. You might also have seen her exciting run for National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations where she placed second.

Get to know one of our researchers and her thoughts on community-based research, the Law Research Centre, and her ways of finding relaxation with sports and pow wow.

Pamela Palmater…

… On The Kind Of Research She’d Like To See Grow

“Research that is done in partnership with First Nations communities; kind of like a mutual exchange where we get the benefit of having community-based research but they also get the benefit of the research itself and the process and training for First Nations researchers. First Nations research takes a different approach, as it is very community-based. So you have to build a relationship with individual First Nations communities and their collective representative organizations and really build up trust by making sure that anything you do is helpful and not hurtful.”

… On Her Upcoming Research

“I am researching First Nations poverty issues, both the historical root causes and contemporary laws and policies which maintain many First Nations in poverty. This research will result in a book which outlines various policy options. The other big project that I am working on is Indigenous identity and belonging, and conceptions of citizenship in an Indigenous nationhood context. Instead of looking exclusively at the community level, we would be looking at the Mi’kmaw Nation and ask questions such as ‘how do nation-based concepts of Indigenous identity match with local membership codes’.”

… On The Link Between The Law Research Centre And The Chair In Indigenous Governance

“Both the Centre and the Chair have collaborated on a conference on the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which went really well, because it was able to focus on Indigenous Peoples perspectives. Much of the research done on Indigenous issues, involve some aspect of law, be it Indigenous, International or Canadian law. I really think that the partnership between the the Law Centre and the Chair in Indigenous Governance is the best kind to have if we want to address these issues in a comprehensive manner.”

… On Her Experiences This Past Summer

“Running in the election for National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations was a great experience. I met so many youth, elders, community members and leaders and made some life-long friends. It was inspiring to see that our collective strength remains in tact and that we are all here to support one another to get justice for our peoples. The fact that so many Chiefs were willing to throw their vote behind me also shows, that times have changed for Indigenous women. Traditionally, Indigenous women were very powerful and were involved in politics, negotiations, management of lands and resources and were key decision-makers in terms of selecting leaders. Colonization changed all that and that’s why there has never been a woman as the head of the Assembly of First Nations. Now, its not the gender that matters, but which path forward we want to take together.”

… On The Way In Which The Bertha Wilson Award Might Affect Her Work And Teaching

“Well, it is a huge honour and it really is commemorating Bertha Wilson’s work on the Supreme Court and her life work in addressing issues around discrimination. The primary reason why I was nominated is that I dedicate a great deal of pro-bono or volunteer time with First Nations on all of those legal issues that impact us, like paternalistic and discriminatory federal legislation. So, I see this award as also showing how important community-based legal research is and as recognition of the major role volunteerism can play in the legal community. I think Indigenous legal work can help shape university-based research which focuses on communities.”

… On Finding A Balance To Her Work

“That would be sports and fitness! I have been involved in sports and fitness my whole life. I received a sports scholarship for my Masters in Law and I am now a level one badminton coach. I am a big supporter of Indigenous sport and healthy living and supporting our Indigenous youth to stay healthy. To me, that is a critical component of Nation-building. I’d have to say my favourite relaxation time of the year is pow-wow season. Travelling from pow wow to pow wow in different communities in different provinces enriches the spirit.”

Get To Know Our Researchers

The Law Centre regularly features profiles of faculty and external experts associated with the law centre. Get personal insight into our researchers' lifes, their thoughts on legal issues and their future projects! What do our researchers think about Ryerson? How did they become researchers and what do they do in their down time?