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Jeannette Corbiere Lavell

Lifetime Achievement (2020)

Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, ON

“Any barriers, any goals that are there, we can depend on our family to help us, but also ask the Creator, our guardians, our ancestors to help us.”

For over fifty years, Jeannette Corbiere Lavell has championed causes which have resonated across Canada and beyond.  A founding member and former President of the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA), she lost her Indigenous status according to Section 12 of the Indian Act when she married her non-Indigenous husband in 1970.  She challenged this decision at the Supreme Court of Canada in 1973 under the reasoning that it discriminated by gender.  Although it was unsuccessful, her action led the way for subsequent challenges; that Section of the Act was finally overturned in 1985.

Jeannette has advocated for Indigenous women’s rights at the Organization of American States, the UN’s Human Rights Committee and Committee to End Sex Discrimination, and at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  Her passion for education led her to work as a teacher, school principal, and education counsellor, and she has sat on numerous boards and committees.  Her quest to achieve equity under the law for Indigenous women is featured in the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, MB.