2017 Fredericton Encaenia - Ceremony B

Palmater, Pamela

Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)

Orator: Kealey, Linda


to be Doctor of Laws

Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw from Eel River Bar First Nation (Ugpi’Ganjig) in Northern New Brunswick. She is a lawyer and a professor at Ryerson University, and holds the University’s Chair in Indigenous Governance.  

A graduate of St. Thomas University, Dr. Palmater went on to a obtain a law degree here at UNB and did graduate work at Dalhousie University, earning both a master’s and doctorate degree in law.

That she would take this path was not obvious or easy. At a very young age, Dr. Palmater became an activist for First Nation rights, and for over 25 years, has tackled issues such as poverty, inadequate housing, child and family services, treaty rights, education and human rights.

Before embarking on her studies, however, she also experienced the challenges of raising two sons alone.  Attending university after initially resisting the idea, Dr. Palmater found that she excelled in her academic pursuits and that she could integrate her social justice activism into an academic career.  

Dr. Palmater is a fierce social justice advocate for First Nations, but especially for indigenous women and children. She uses the skills she has learned in her studies, but also the tools derived from traditional indigenous knowledge and culture.

As an expert in Indigenous law, politics and governance, Dr. Palmater is much in demand as a speaker, educator and expert witness not only at conferences, but also before Parliamentary committees and United Nations bodies and commissions.  

As an example, she participated in UN negotiations leading to the ‘Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.’  In 2013, the feminist journal, Herizons, called her the “iron woman of Aboriginal activism” for her campaign bid to lead the Assembly of First Nations in 2012 and her leadership role in the Idle No More movement.  

For her scholarship and activism, she was recognized with a Woman of Distinction Award in 2012, as one of the top 5 most influential lawyers in human rights in 2013, and as one of Canada’s top visionary women leaders in 2014.  

UNB recognized her with an Alumni Award of Distinction in 2015, and in 2016, she received the Margaret Mead Award in Social Justice and the JS Woodsworth Woman of Excellence Award.  And these are only a few of her many awards.

In her activist research and publishing, she has authored over 20 academic chapters and articles, dozens of blog pieces and published opinion pieces in numerous newspapers and journals.  

In 2011, she published her book, Beyond Blood:  Rethinking Indigenous Identity, and in 2015, Indigenous Nationhood:  Empowering Grass Roots Citizenship. Currently she is working on another book project:  Death by Poverty in First Nations.  In Indigenous Nationhood she writes the following: “Honouring the lives of our ancestors, including those lost in residential schools, murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, those who are wrongly held in prisons or who have died in police custody, and the many Indigenous children trapped in foster care, will always be the guiding light in all my work.  We won’t ever stop until we bring you all home.”

UNB is proud to welcome Dr. Palmater home and to bestow on her this honourary degree.

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