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Turpel Lafond Appointed To Bench

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SPRING 1998      v28 n01 p18  
Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond has made history in Saskatchewan. This distinguished lawyer recently became the first Treaty Indian to be appointed to the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan.

Her appointment is another milestone in a long history of achievement. Her formal legal education began with a bachelor of law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. She then moved on to Cambridge University where she completed a master's degree, followed by a doctorate at the prestigious Harvard Law School.

Since then, she has taught at a number of universities including Notre Dame University and Dalhousie. It was here that she became the first tenured Aboriginal law professor in Canada.

During her impressive career, Turpel Lafond has remained dedicated to Aboriginal issues. She has used her considerable legal abilities to promote the issues affecting Aboriginal peoples on provincial, national and international levels.

For the past four years, she has acted as Legal Counsel for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN). While at the FSIN, she has been involved in many high-profile agreements. She was part of the negotiations for the FSIN's casino agreement with the provincial government that paved the way for the four Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority casinos.

Turpel Lafond also contributed to the negotiations surrounding the renewed mandate of the office of the Treaty Commissioner. Since the appointment of David Arnot to the Treaty Commissioner's position and the establishment of the new office, she has been one of the FSIN's lead negotiators at the Treaty Table.

Turpel Lafond is a positive role model for First Nations youth, in particular young women, and maintains strong ties to the community. She was a founder of the First Nations Youth Healing Fund and currently sits on their Board of Directors. She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Mendel Art Gallery and is a Friend of Wanuskewin Heritage Park, among others.

Her appointment to the provincial bench is an opportunity, she has stated, to bring an understanding of Aboriginal culture and law to the provincial bench. She is looking forward to the challenge that the position is sure to bring. "I am honoured by this appointment because it is another chance for the First Nations community to build bridges of understanding with the citizens of Saskatchewan." She is also ready to accept its tremendous responsibility both to young Aboriginal people in trouble and to Saskatchewan society as a whole.

Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond will be sworn in as a provincial court judge in a ceremony at Wanuskewin Heritage Park on Friday, March 13, 1998.