Madam Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin is an Abenaki member of the Odanak First Nation, Québec, and the first Indigenous judge named to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa. She is originally from Hanmer in the Sudbury region, perfectly bilingual and actively learning her Abenaki language.
Prior to joining the Superior Court of Justice, Madam Justice O’Bonsawin was General Counsel at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group and previously Counsel at the Canada Post Corporation. She practiced in the areas of mental health, labour, employment, human rights and privacy law. She has also taught the course Les autochtones et le droit part-time at the University of Ottawa.
Madam Justice O’Bonsawin received her LL.B. from the French Common Law Program at the University of Ottawa and her LL.M. (Thesis: Treatment Orders in the Mental Health Context – Do They Really Work?) at Osgoode Hall in 2014. She is currently completing her PhD (Thesis: A Principled Approach: Mandatory Application of the Gladue Principles at Review Board Hearings) at the University of Ottawa.
Madam Justice O’Bonsawin continues to be very active in the legal community. She is currently a Board member of the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice and was a member of the University of Ottawa’s Board of Governors and a Board member of the Aboriginal Legal Services of the University of Ottawa Legal Aid Clinic.
Madam Justice O’Bonsawin is Chair of the Education Committee and a member of the Technology Committee of the Canadian Superior Court Judges’ Association. She is Chair of the Ontario Justice Education Network in Ottawa, member of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario and a member of the organizing committees for national conferences. She also acts as a mentor to lawyers and law students.
Madam Justice O’Bonsawin is a frequent guest speaker regarding issues of mental health law and Gladue principles. She has been a guest speaker at conferences held by the Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario, the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, the National Judicial Institute, the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, the University of Ottawa and the County of Carleton Law Association.
Madam Justice O’Bonsawin has many publications such as:
- Access to Justice and Gladue Reports: We All Have a Role to Play in Lawyer’s Daily (2020)
- A Principled Approach: Applying Gladue Principles at the Ontario Review Board in the National Judicial Institute Indigenous Law Subject Collection (2018)
- Canada’s Bill C-14 [NCR] A Knee Jerk Reaction to Sensationalized Not Criminally Responsible Cases in the Canadian Criminal Law Review (2016)
- Mental Health Checklist: A Guide for Members of the Judiciary (2016).
In 2019, Madam Justice O’Bonsawin was inducted into the University of Ottawa’s Common Law Honour Society. She was nominated for the Laura Legge award in 2017 and profiled in Tête à Tête – Improving Understanding in the Nation’s Courtrooms in 2016. In 2013, she was awarded the Rising Star Award by Lexpert Magazine, recognizing her as one of Canada’s leading lawyers under 40. She was also recognized as a leading businesswoman by Canada Post Corporation on International Woman’s Day in 2008.