Pamela Palmater’s fight for equal rights earns her YWCA Woman of Distinction Award
March 12, 2012
Pamela Palmater is a role model for all women.
The chair of the Centre for Indigenous Governance has been recognized with a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, a premier honour given to exceptional women leaders for their contributions to improving the lives of women and girls in their community. The announcement comes one day after International Woman’s Day, an early 20th-century tradition celebrating women’s achievements.In addition to Palmater, YWCA also recognized 2005 honorary doctorate recipient Elyse Allan, president and CEO of GE Canada, as a Woman of Distinction. The awards ceremony takes place May 16 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Palmater has dedicated most of her time to volunteering for First Nations communities and organizations. She’s a Mi’kmaw lawyer and professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration, co-ordinating the program with the First Nations’ Technical Institute which increases access to post-secondary education through teaching on reserves. Palmater works with diverse First Nations, community groups, students and feminist legal scholars to empower Indigenous women and build communities characterized by equality, inclusion and self-determination.
“I have an obligation to the next seven generations. I am determined to make things better for them,” she says. “This is a huge honour, especially because it’s great for Indigenous people to see one of their own receive a mainstream award represented by the YWCA, which recognizes all people.”
As the inaugural chair of Ryerson’s Centre for Indigenous Governance she’s organized a public lecture series that features Indigenous women leaders who are making a difference in their own communities. Palmater’s work shines a light on the complex ways in which Indigenous women face gender discrimination and myriad ways in which Indigenous women are rendered invisible. In many different ways, Palmater seeks to make Indigenous women visible and their voices heard.
“One of the things that I greatly admire about professor Palmater is that she combines an intimidating intellect, knowledge of the law and passion for justice, with a wicked sense of humour,” said Wendy Cukier, vice- president, research and innovation. “She is a dynamo, driving cutting-edge, relevant research which serves the needs of the community and her students. She is incredibly media savvy – ensuring her work has impact and translates into concrete actions. Her community involvement is substantial, especially at the grassroots level and she crisscrosses the country speaking about human rights, broadly, and as they apply to First Nations people in particular. She has built enviable networks with political, corporate and community leaders and her work is highly regarded not just in Canada but internationally. She is an outstanding and collaborative colleague – we have worked together on a number of projects through Ryerson’s Diversity Institute.”
One of the ways Palmater is able to reach so many people is through modern technology, social media and other alternate forums. She teaches women to advocate for change through community sessions, e-mails, phone calls and presentations as well as keeps interested parties up-to-date on major political and legal issues through her Twitter and Facebook sites. People from across the country consult her website dedicated to First Nations issues and her blog which offers critical commentary on issues important to grassroots Aboriginal people.
Still early in her prolific career, her contributions have been recognized by prestigious nominations for the Next Generation of Leaders in the Globe and Mail contest, Transformational Canadians and Canada’s Top 40-Under-40, and she works with various groups and organizations to deliver training in equity and diversity. Her recent book, Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity tackles gender equality for Indigenous women as well as legislative discrimination faced by all First Nations. She continues her research and advocacy to address poverty in First Nations which most acutely impacts Indigenous women and children.
Visit www.cbc.ca/metromorning/episodes/2012/03/08/empowering-indigenous-women/ to hear Matt Galloway from CBC’s radio show Metro Morning interview Palmater.