This blog series is part of our celebration of International Women’s Month.
Each piece is written by a Women, Girls & Global Justice intern.
Story by Erin East
In light of recent debates in our country about immigration, many of us often forget that our forefathers immigrated to the United States. Canada as well, along with plenty of other countries, shares a similar history. In coming to the New World, our ancestors displaced Native Americans. The current term for the indigenous populations that were displaced in Canada is the First Nations. The First Nations are an assembly of more than six hundred different recognized groups. Some First Nations include the Métis, the Shishalh, and the Mi’kmaq. The First Nations suffered similar atrocities to the Native Americans and continue to face hardships today. First Nations advocacy, also referred to as Aboriginal advocacy, is a crucial part of reestablishing the rights and identity of these marginalized people in society.
Jean Teillet has dedicated her life to reestablishing these rights. She is the great-grandniece of the famous Métis leader Louis Riel and had a career in theatre before going to law school at the age of 38. She graduated from the University of Toronto Law School in 1994 and immediately established herself as an advocate for First Nations rights. Teillet is currently a partner at Pape Salter Teillet LLP and specializes in Aboriginal rights.
Teillet has an impressive resume of casework and legal battles but her most important case was won in September of 2003. Teillet was the counsel for a First Nations man named Steve Powley who was charged with unlawfully hunting moose without a license. Teillet argued that Powley did not need a hunting license because the hunting of moose fell under Métis harvesting rights. The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada whose decision to constitutionally protect the Métis harvesting rights was a landmark decision for indigenous peoples of the First Nations.
Teillet founded the Métis Nation of Ontario and the National Aboriginal Moot. She also sits on the Canadian Judicial Council Chairperson’s Advisory Group and the Aboriginal Bar Association Ethics Committee. Additionally, she is the Vice Chair of Indspire, an organization that focuses on the education of First Nations children. Teillet sits on the advisory boards for The Charter Project, Windsor Law School, and Journal of Law & Equity for the University of Toronto. She also publishes her own journal each year, the Métis Law in Canada, the foremost law journal for Métis legal rights.
Jean Teillet has made enormous strides for the indigenous peoples of Canada. Her work in law has set precedent and won numerous cases. Teillet’s passion and drive to advocate and actively work for the First Nations makes her not only an awe-inspiring person, but also an amazing woman to celebrate.