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Roberta Jamieson

Lawyer & Indigenous Advocate

Roberta Jamieson is a Mohawk woman from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, the first Indigenous woman in Canada to earn a law degree. After that, she became Commissioner of the Indian Commission of Ontario, and then served ten years as Ontario’s first female Ombudsman. She then became the first woman to be elected chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Presentations

Education
Roberta believes Education is the key to transformation in the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples if there is to be true reconciliation. She calls on us to make constructive change in order to better our economic circumstances. She outlines how Education of Indigenous youth would addresses Canada’s growing shortage of skilled labour, while making the case that Education is a sustainable investment which exponentially increases benefits over future generations and in a short time pays for itself.

Negotiation and Conflict Resolution: New Ways of Resolving Issues 
Jamieson explores the ins and outs of alternative conflict resolution. Is it possible to apply ADR in our schoolyards, families, between people and corporations? ADR has much to offer in creating solid foundations for future relationships while resolving the conflicts of today.

Globalization: What it Means to Real People 
The rewards promised are greater employment and higher standards of living – but the question is, for whom? What can be done by public and private sectors to protect the interests of real people?

Governance, Accountability and Human Rights: The New Political Imperatives
Jamieson explores what the public expects of public servants, and the problems public servants have in meeting the expectations of politicians.

Canada 150

The Challenge, the Opportunity: Establishing Personal & Corporate Relationships with Indigenous Peoples to Achieve Lasting Change
It is not easy to speak or hear about the wrongs that have been committed against Indigenous Peoples, but Roberta Jamieson does that with mastery and authenticity. She tells a difficult and painful story while putting forward a cathartic vision that Canadians can work together to make a difference for future generations. One where each diverse individual, each diverse group, has the opportunity and freedom to make their distinct contribution to Canada and the world. She inspires each audience member to play a role in making that original promise good.

Platform Plus

Panelist/In Conversation

Awards

2016
Officer of the Order of Canada

2014
Council of Ontario Universities | David C. Smith Award

2012
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

Indigenous Peoples Counsel Award

1998
National Aboriginal Achievement Award | Law and Justice

1994
Order of Canada


  • Roberta Jamieson was absolutely wonderful. She gave what can only be described as a powerful address, receiving a sustained round of applause at the conclusion. Her comments resonated with our delegates and her challenges to the organization were precisely the themes that originated from the conference and that we need to pursue during the next year. It was a total success.

    - Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario (AMAPCEO)
  • Thank you for taking the time to get to know our organization and the work we do, and for tailoring your talk to suit our needs...your remarks touched [the audience] deeply and you really made them think about how they do their jobs.

    - Canadian Association of College & University Student Services
  • You spoke to movingly at the Dinner and in case you didn’t notice, the silence and the attention in the room was palpable. Thank you for your inspiring words and the passion you bring with each and every word you say.

    - Pier 21 Foundation

Summary Profile

Roberta was one of eight siblings, and in this tight-knit family living on the Six Nations reserve, she learned the art of non-adversarial conflict resolution. After attending school on reserve, she set her sights on medicine as a career, following in the footsteps of a great uncle who had been a doctor. But while enrolled in pre-med studies at McGill University, away from her family for the first time, she became embroiled in the situation of the James Bay Cree whose traditional hunting grounds were to be flooded as part of a massive hydroelectric project in the early 1970s. She realized that the best way to help First Nations defend their rights and interests was to learn the law.

Roberta Jamieson has carved out a notable career as an advisor, leader, advocate, and consensus builder — always with a keen eye to social justice, problem-solving, and, above all, the rights and interests of First Nations people.

In a book called Great Women Leaders, which includes a chapter on Ms. Jamieson (and other luminaries such as Rosa Parks and Golda Meir), author Heather Ball describes how Ms. Jamieson became aware at an early age of Mohawk political traditions, including the process of “holding council” in which people gathered, traded opinions, and kept talking until consensus was reached. Ms. Ball noted that Jamieson honours that same tradition, “believing decisions should be reached by discussion and consultation in a cool-headed manner, rather than through angry confrontation. This is Roberta’s signature style, and one of the reasons she is such a trusted negotiator.”

Since 2004, Roberta Jamieson has been president and CEO of Indspire, the Indigenous-led charity and in 2015-16, disbursed over $12.2 million through 3,792 bursaries and scholarships to Indigenous students. She is executive producer of the Indspire Awards which honour Indigenous achievement and is telecast on two national networks.

Roberta Jamieson understands that reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples will not be easy. “Change doesn’t just happen,” she has said. “It takes work, but it is achievable if we work together to make it happen.”