The Honourable Michelle O’Bonsawin is a widely respected member of Canada’s legal community with a distinguished career spanning over 20 years.
Justice O’Bonsawin was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa in 2017, becoming the first Indigenous woman judge of that court. Prior to her appointment, she was General Counsel for the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group for eight years. In this role, she developed a thorough understanding of legal issues related to mental health and performed significant research regarding the use of Gladue principles in the forensic mental health system, appearing before various administrative tribunals and levels of courts, including the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Consent and Capacity Board, the Ontario Review Board, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Ontario Court of Justice, and the Ontario Court of Appeal. She began her legal career with the legal services at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and was then Counsel with Canada Post, specializing in labour and employment law, human rights, and privacy law.
Justice O’Bonsawin has taught Indigenous law at the University of Ottawa’s Common Law Program and was previously responsible for the Indigenous Relations Program at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group. She is a frequent guest speaker on Gladue principles, Indigenous issues, as well as mental health, labour, and privacy law.
She previously served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ottawa, as well as its Executive Committee, and as a Board member for the Aboriginal Legal Services of the University of Ottawa Legal Aid Clinic. She is currently an observer member of the Membership Committee of Odanak First Nation, a Board member of the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, and a Partner Judge for Afghanistan Women Judges with the International Association of Women Judges.
Justice O’Bonsawin holds a Bachelor of Arts from Laurentian University, a Bachelor of Law from the University of Ottawa, a Master of Law from Osgoode Hall Law School, and a Doctorate in Law from the University of Ottawa.
Born in Hanmer, Ontario, a small Francophone town near Sudbury, she now resides in Ottawa with her family. A fluently bilingual Franco-Ontarian, Justice O’Bonsawin is an Abenaki member of the Odanak First Nation.