Episode 53: The Honourable Murray Sinclair’s Address From CIAJ’s 45th Annual Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the Law

Access to Justice, Indigenous Peoples – Jun 2022

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Episode 53: The Honourable Murray Sinclair’s Address From CIAJ’s 45th Annual Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the Law
Broadcast Date: June 21, 2022


This is an excerpt from CIAJ’s 45th Annual Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the Law, which took place in person in Vancouver and online on November 17-19, 2021.

CIAJ is pleased to widely share the address made by the 2021 Conference Honorary Chair, The Honourable Murray Sinclair, on November 17, 2021. The episode begins with an introduction from The Honourable Justice James W. O’Reilly and The Honourable P. Colleen Suche. More speeches and presentations will be released in the coming weeks.

To learn more about the impact of the 2021 Conference, please read the report compiling the highlights of invaluable analysis, comments and recommendations that emerged from this event: “Asserting Self-Governance: Report From CIAJ’s Annual Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the Law”

Video recordings from CIAJ’s 45th Annual Conference are available for purchase here and documentation from the event is available for free here. More podcasts on the theme of Indigenous Peoples and the Law are available here.


  • The Honourable Murray Sinclair

The Honourable Murray Sinclair was born just north of Selkirk, Manitoba, at what used to be St. Peters Reserve. His Ojibway name Mizanay Gheezhik, means “the One Who Speaks of Pictures in the Sky,” and Sinclair has spent his life creating a new image of justice for Aboriginal people.

He showed early promise and was valedictorian for his graduating class and Athlete of the Year at Selkirk Collegiate. Sinclair continued his academic career at The University of Winnipeg, studying sociology with a history minor in 1975. He then attended the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba, where he graduated in 1979.

Sinclair was Manitoba’s first Aboriginal judge, appointed Associate Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Manitoba in 1988. In the same year, he was appointed co-commissioner of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, with Associate Chief Justice A. C. Hamilton. Their in-depth study produced almost three hundred recommendations that still impact our justice system today.

His high-profile responsibilities also included directing the very complex Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Inquest at the Health Sciences Centre and serving as legal counsel for the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.

His biggest impact, perhaps, came with his 2009 appointment as Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, part of a comprehensive response to the Indian Residential School legacy. The Commission’s mandate was to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools and document the truth of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the Indian Residential Schools experience.

Sinclair has spent his life in public service on behalf of all Manitobans, having served on numerous community boards including The John Howard Society, The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, and UWinnipeg’s Board of Regents, among others.

In 1994, he was honoured with one of the first National Aboriginal Achievement Awards and in 2015, the University recognized Sinclair’s body of work with the Duff Roblin Award.


  • The Honourable Justice James W. O’Reilly, Federal Court, CIAJ’s Past President

Justice James W. O’Reilly was appointed to the Federal Court in 2002 and to the Court Martial Appeal Court in 2003. He has had a varied legal career, serving as Consultant to the Law Reform Commission of Canada, Legal Advisor in the Department of Justice, sole practitioner specializing in legal policy and law reform, Executive Legal Officer at the Supreme Court of Canada, Associate Executive Director at the National Judicial Institute, and Counsel to the Collusion Investigation in London, England. He is the author of many reports and publications, and has taught law at Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, McGill University, Western University, and the Law Society of Upper Canada. He is also a Fellow of McLaughlin College, York University. Justice James O’Reilly has served as co-chair of the CIAJ’s Judgment Writing Seminar since 2010, has been a member of its Board since 2012. He has been acting as President since 2019 and will continue his role as Past President from December 2021.

Learn more about the Honourable James W. O’Reilly by reading his portrait on our blog here.

Justice Colleen Suche has been a member of the General Division of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba since 2002. She is also a deputy judge of the Nunavut Court of Justice. In her work on the court she hears a wide range of cases, and also works extensively as a judicial mediator.

Throughout both her legal and judicial career, Justice Suche has been involved in many legal and community organizations. Since her appointment to the bench, this includes as a member of the National Action Committee on Access to Civil and Family Justice, director of the Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association, and is the current president the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice. While on a study leave in 2011, she led the establishment of the Legal Help Centre of Winnipeg, a free community legal clinic, staffed by volunteer lawyers, law students and social work students. Working with teachers, crown and defense lawyers, for many years she ran a program for high school students to follow and attend a jury trial as part of their studies.

She is the past chairperson of the Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee (Prairie Region) and was a member of the Winnipeg Library Advisory Board for several years. She was also the first Judicial Co-chair of the Women’s Forum of the Manitoba Bar Association, and is the recipient of the Isabel Ross McLean Hunt Award, which recognizes role models for women in the legal profession.

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