Speakers 

Bios and photos can be seen below for speakers of the 2017 Peace & Friendship Treaty Days. Speakers listed in alphabetical order by last name.

Senator Daniel Christmas

Mr. Christmas has served in various leadership positions in the Mi’kmaw Nation of Nova Scotia. After serving five years as the Band Manager for the Community of Membertou, Mr. Christmas worked for the Union of Nova Scotia Indians for 15 years - the last 10 as its Director. He was actively involved in the recognition and implementation of Mi’kmaw aboriginal and treaty rights in Nova Scotia.

From 1997 to 2016, Mr. Christmas held the position as Senior Advisor with Membertou and had assisted the Chief and Council and its Management Team with the day-to-day operations of the Community of Membertou. Dan also served as elected councillor for Membertou for 18 years.

Mr. Christmas has been active in a number of international, national, provincial and local agencies in a wide range of fields including aboriginal & treaty rights, justice, policing, education, healthcare, human rights, adult training, business development and the environment.

In 2005, Mr. Christmas was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Dalhousie University and an honorary diploma from the Nova Scotia Community College in 2016. In 2008, he was the recipient of the National Excellence in Aboriginal Leadership Award from the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada.

In December 2016, Mr. Christmas was sworn in as an Independent Senator for Nova Scotia. Senator Christmas is the first Mi’kmaw senator to be appointed to the Senate of Canada.

Adrian Downey

Adrian Downey is a PhD student at the University of New Brunswick and has recently finished his Master’s of Arts in education focused in curriculum studies at Mount Saint Vincent University. He is a member of the Qalipu First Nation, a writer, a poet, and a musician. Before returning to graduate school he was a music teacher in the Cree School Board of Northern Quebec. His research interests are around white privilege, identity, Indigenous education, social change, and Indigeneity. He can be reached at Adrian.Downey@msvu.ca

Gord Hill

Gord Hill is an Indigenous writer, artist and activist of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation. He is the author and illustrator of The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book and The Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book (both published by Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver, Canada), as well as the author of the book 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance, published by AK Press in Oakland, California. His art and writings have also been published in numerous periodicals, including Canadian Dimension, Redwire, Red Rising Magazine, The Dominion, Recherches Amerindiennes au Quebec, Intotemak, Seattle Weekly, and Broken Pencil.

Kathleen Mahoney

Professor Kathleen E. Mahoney has a JD from the University of British Columbia, an LLM degree from Cambridge University and a Diploma in International Comparative Human Rights from the Strasbourg International Human Rights Institute in France. She is Professor of Law at the University of Calgary and Queen’s Counsel. She was the Chief Negotiator for Canada’s Aboriginal peoples claim for cultural genocide against Canada, achieving the largest financial settlement in Canadian history for the mass human rights violations against the indigenous peoples of Canada.

She was the primary architect of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and led the negotiations for the historic apology from the Canadian Parliament and from Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. She was co-counsel for Bosnia Herzegovina in their genocide action against Serbia in the International Court of Justice with the result that the definition of genocide in the Genocide Convention was altered to include mass rapes and forced pregnancy as genocide offences.

Among her many awards and distinctions, Professor Mahoney is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Queen’s Counsel, a Trudeau Fellow, and a Fulbright and Human Rights Fellow (Harvard). She received the Governor General’s medal for her contribution to equality in Canada. She has held Visiting Professorships or Fellowships at Havard University, The University of Chicago, Adelaide University, University of Western Australia, Griffiths University, the National University of Australia and Ulster University.

Dr Pam Palmater

Dr. Pam Palmater

Dr Pam Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer, author, social justice activist, and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University from Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She has 4 university degrees, including a BA from St. Thomas in Native Studies; an LLB from UNB, and her Masters and Doctorate in Law from Dalhousie University specializing in Indigenous law.

Pam has been volunteering and working in First Nation issues for over 25 years on a wide range of issues like poverty, housing, education, Aboriginal and treaty rights, and legislation impacting First Nations. She was one of the spokespeople and public educators for the Idle No More movement in 2012-13 and has continued her public advocacy in many forums since then.

She has been recognized with many awards for her social justice advocacy on behalf of First Nations generally, and Indigenous women and children specifically, including the 2012 YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Social Justice, the 2012 Women’s Courage Award in Social Justice, Bertha Wilson Honour Society 2012 and Canadian Lawyer Magazine’s 2013 Top 5 Most Influential Lawyer in the Human Rights category, Canada's Top Visionary Women Leaders 2014, and the 2015 UNB Alumni Award of Distinction.

Her books, Indigenous Nationhood: Empowering Grassroots Citizens and Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity, and legal articles, academic journals, magazine articles and invited news editorials focus on Indigenous law, politics, and governance. She is a well-known speaker and media commentator and is frequently called as an expert before Parliamentary and United Nations committees dealing with laws and policies impacting Indigenous peoples. Her most recent work focuses on police racism and sexualized violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Ian Peach

Having grown up in the Maritimes, central Canada, and the West, over the course of his career Ian Peach has held a number of senior positions with federal, provincial, and territorial governments in Canada and universities in the West and the East, has been staff to Parliamentary committees, and has been a consultant to various governments and non-governmental organizations. His specialities are constitutional law, constitutional negotiations, federalism and intergovernmental relations, and Aboriginal law, policy, and self-government negotiations. Beyond these fields, he has extensive senior experience in addressing a wide range of public policy issues and with institutional design, strategic planning, and the policy process.

Early in his career, after serving as staff on two parliamentary committees on constitutional reform, he was a negotiator for the Yukon Government on Canada’s last attempt at undertaking major constitutional reform, which became the Charlottetown Accord. His 15 years of service with the Government of Saskatchewan included time as Director of Constitutional Relations in the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs and as a Senior Policy Advisor in Saskatchewan Executive Council, where, among other things, he was responsible for the development and testing of Saskatchewan’s approach to key horizontal strategies for government, along with participating in a number of intergovernmental negotiations and negotiations with Aboriginal peoples.

Later, he was Director of the Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy, a university-based public policy institute, and he then went on to develop the Aboriginal Policy Research Network at the Office of the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. Having received his B.A. from Dalhousie University and his LL.B. from Queen’s University in the 1980’s, Mr. Peach returned to Queen’s and completed his Master of Laws degree in 2009. He was appointed Dean of Law at the University of New Brunswick on August 1, 2010. He recently served the New Brunswick Department of Justice, providing advice on a number of special initiatives. Currently, he is an advisor to the Mi’kmaq-Wolsatoqey Centre at the University of New Brunswick, providing the Centre with research and analysis, advice, and event organization, and he continues to engage in consulting work for other governmental and non-governmental clients.

Imelda Pearly

Imelda Perley (Opolahsomuwehs) is Wolastoqew (Maliseet) from Tobique First Nation, St. Mary’s First Nation and Houlton Band of Maliseets (United States). She has been recently appointed as Elder-in-Residence at the University of New Brunswick. Imelda holds a B.A. and an M.Ed. both from the University of New Brunswick. She is a fluent speaker of Maliseet, her first language.

Imelda teaches Maliseet language and Wabanaki Worldview courses at the University of New Brunswick and the University of Maine. She also co-teaches a Native Studies module at Saint Thomas University. She is founder and coordinator of the Wolastoq Language and Culture Centers Inc., situated at Tobique and St. Mary’s First Nations. The primary purpose of each centre is to promote Wolastoq language, culture, traditions, worldviews, and ceremonies. Each centre also conducts workshops that provide information pertaining to history, social, economic, political, and cultural conditions of Wolastoq communities.

Imelda remains active in promoting cross-cultural awareness sessions within the public domain. Her traditional roles within the community include Sweatlodge Keeper, Medicine Wheel Teacher, Sacred Pipe Carrier, and Keeper of the Women’s Ceremonies (e.g. Puberty, Naming and Fasting). She is a cultural advisor for community organizations, provincial and federal agencies. Her acquisition of traditional knowledge from the Elders and other cultural teachers has prompted her to remain active in environmental and cultural issues.

Renée Pelletier

Renée Pelletier is Managing Partner at OKT. Renée is of Maliseet ancestry and grew up in Nova Scotia. Her practice includes work on Aboriginal and treaty rights litigation and specific claims. She has litigated judicial review applications and appeared before various levels of courts on motions, trials and appeals.

Renée advises and represents Indigenous clients on consultation matters, regulatory and environmental matters, reserve land management and impacts and benefits agreements. Renée is passionate about assisting Indigenous clients in achieving greater self-determination and strives to incorporate their legal traditions into work she does on their behalf.

Renée was appointed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Assessment Review Expert Panel (independent from Government of Canada) and has provided recommendations about improving environmental assessment processes in “Building Common Ground: A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada”.

Renée is a member of the New Brunswick and Ontario Bars as well as a member of the Indigenous Bar Association and is recognized by Lexpert as a leading practitioner in the area of Aboriginal Law.

Marilyn Poitras

Professor Poitras joined the faculty in 2009. Prior to the appointment, her professional life was a fusion of law, governance, community and institutional education. Her expertise and passion are around Constitutional/Aboriginal Law with a life study of customary laws. Marilyn’s legal career began as a Native Court Worker and moved into the area of Constitutional law after her articles with the Saskatchewan Department of Justice. She has developed a number of legal education initiatives including the precursor to the Akitsiraq Law School in Nunavut, where she has also been a professor, and the Indigenous People’s Resource Management Program at the University of Saskatchewan. Marilyn has worked in private practice and litigated in every level of court in Canada. She has significant experience in the development of Self Government with the Beaufort Delta Agreement, Treaty Implementation with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Treaty Table Justice Portfolio as well as the revisions to the Saskatchewan Métis Election Process. Marilyn also works on CIDA funded research on Ancestral Domain and land conflict in Central Mindanao. Her four children keep her laughing, rounded, grounded and real.

Meaghan Williams

Meaghan Williams is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on treaty and federal politics, asking what the theory of treaty federalism implies for institutions of shared rule and political representation. This is her second year presenting at the University of New Brunswick's Peace and Friendship Treaty Days. She can be reached at meaghan.williams@mail.utoronto.ca.