Roberta Jamieson blazing a trail

She was the first Aboriginal woman to earn a law degree in Canada, she was the first non-Parliamentarian to be an ex-officio member of a House of Commons committee and she was the first woman appointed as Ontario Ombudsmen.

By Trish Allison
APTN National News

She was the first Aboriginal woman to earn a law degree in Canada, she was the first non-parliamentarian to be an ex-officio member of a House of Commons committee and she was the first woman appointed as Ontario Ombudsmen.

She is Roberta Jamieson.

From 1976 to 2012 she’s acquired a list of achievements that could very well define her as an inspiration to not only young aboriginal women, but to an entire generation of young female minds.

“I’m not Einstein, I’m not particularly brilliant,” she said. “I’m sure other people work harder than I do, all I’ve tried to do in my life time is use my gift to the best of my abilities.”

In doing so she’s built a name that stands out in a crowd and shines brighter than a star filled night sky.

It was in 1976 that she graduated from the University Of Western Ontario School Of Law. From there she went on to become part of the Canadian Indian Rights Commission secretariat and in 1978, she worked at the Indian Commission if Ontario as executive assistant to the Commissioner.

The next 34 years of her life came with numerous achievements.

“I have always grown up with the expectation that for my own community, people around me believe the Creator has given us gifts. Our job is to put that service to the community.”

And that’s exactly what she did.

Jamieson has won numerous awards that include the Keepers of Our Culture Award from First Nations Women in Canada and the Indigenous Peoples Council Award of the Indigenous Bar Association.

She has numerous honorary doctorate degrees from 12 universities that include the likes of McMaster, Dalhousie, Ryerson and the University of Toronto.

In 1994 she was appointed to the order of Canada.

She is the founding chair of the International Aboriginal Media Arts festival “imagineNATIVE” and is a member of the advisory board of CH television in Hamilton.

From 2001 to 2004 she was Chief of Six Nations of the Grand River.

She is CEO and president of Indspire (formerly known as the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation) and just last month she received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her leadership as president and CEO if Indspire and expertise in non-adversarial methods of conflict resolution.

“When you’ve come to achieve a lot, people hold you up to that and that comes with a great sense of responsibility,” she said. “If I can inspire others to reach their dreams, I’m honoured to be one (role model).”

However, she believes everyone is a role model, “every person has the potential to inspire others.”

On a day dedicated to the achievements and contributions of women around the world, Jamieson believes this one day isn’t enough.

“I think every day we should celebrate the contributions of women and men to our globe,” she said.

“We (women) are the majority in our own communities as we are around the world. This gives women a great deal of potential to influence change in our communities.”

She says talking about a day such as International Women’s day “fills your soul with positive energy, hope and promise.”

“There’s hundreds, and thousands of our women, Indigenous women who inspire, the women who are quietly studying to get a PhD, who have gone back to school. There are so many of our women that are taking up challenges that will inspire all of us,” she said.

Three women she says make excellent role models are Candace Sutherland, Leona Aglukkaq and Dakota Brant.

Sutherland is a young Metis woman running across Canada for a campaign she calls Vision4Hope to raise money for four charities that include the

Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society. She’s been doing this since she was 12.

Aglukkaq was named the Minister of health in 2008, and is the first Inuk in Canadian history to be appointed to the Cabinet of Canada. She was an MLA in the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, and she was the minister responsible for the status of women in the executive council of Nunavut.

Jamieson says “she does it with grace, with vision.”

Brant is the first First Nation to graduate from Trent University with a degree in Indigenous environmental studies. She is a volunteer firefighter, an award winning artist and in 2005 she served as Miss Six Nations and travelled to Belgium and France with Michaelle Jean, former governor general of Canada and the Canadian minister of veteran affairs.

“There are role models everywhere you look,” said Jamieson.

I look at my granddaughter, daughter, my mother and my grandmother.

They’ve helped me make choices -the right choices in my life.

Some advice she gives to young aspiring women “Young women should really look inside themselves and know the power of their own potential and make choices that will allow them to nurture and achieve their potential.”

Jamieson is far from done when it comes to work that she does.

“I’m still reaching to create change, I’m not finished yet, lots more life and years and energy.”

Some of the work still ahead involves her organization and her goal to help young indigenous to realize their potential.

“It’s time to take up the challenge in closing the gap for indigenous students,” she said.”Stay tuned, you will see our focus on the creation of a new institute which will showcase, evaluate and highlight the techniques that have worked very well in closing that gap. We know the great potential that young people offer.”

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