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OTTAWA, April 28 – The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians today announced the appointment of Mr. Justice Harry S. LaForme, as Chair of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (IRSTRC). “This is an important step in our commitment to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, and another example of our government doing the right thing for former students, and all Canadians,” said Minister Strahl. “As a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal, Justice LaForme brings a wealth of respect and leadership experience and is the most senior Aboriginal judge in the country.
The appointment of the Chair is a significant step forward in establishing the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Justice LaForme will play a role in the selection of the other two Commissioners. Once they have been appointed, the Commission will be formally established.
The IRSTRC is a key component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and will research and examine the conditions that gave rise to the Indian Residential School legacy. It will be an opportunity for people to tell their stories about a sad part of Canadian history that is still unknown to most Canadians.
Justice LaForme was unanimously chosen to be the Chair of the IRSTRC from the more than 300 submissions in response to a public call for nominations. The selection panel included representatives of national Aboriginal organizations and parties to the Settlement Agreement.
Biographical Note – Justice Harry S. Laforme
Justice Harry S. LaForme is a Mississauga Indian and a member of the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation located in southern Ontario. He was born and raised on his reserve where his mother and some of his family continue to reside and remain active in that First Nation’s government.
He is especially proud of having his efforts recognized by his own Aboriginal people with such honours as: (i) the 1997 National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the area of Law & Justice; and (ii) Aboriginal elders have on three (3) occasions presented him with an Eagle Feather, symbolizing the virtues of honesty, integrity, and respect; the most recent being at his swearing in as a Judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal. He has many publications and articles on issues related to Aboriginal law and justice.
Justice LaForme graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1977 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1979. He articled with the law firm of Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt and joined that firm as an associate in the practice of corporate commercial law. After a brief time with Osler, Hoskin, he commenced his own practice specializing in Aboriginal law. In practice he litigated and focused on matters involving the Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He has appeared before each level of Court and travelled extensively throughout Canada and represented Canadian Aboriginal interests in Geneva Switzerland, New Zealand, and British Parliament.
In 1989 Justice LaForme was appointed Commissioner of the Indian Commission of Ontario. In 1991 he was appointed as Chief Commissioner of the Indian Specific Claims Commission on Aboriginal land claims. He taught the “Rights of Indigenous Peoples” law course at Osgoode Hall Law School in 1992 and 1993.
In October 1989 to June 1990 Justice LaForme served as co-chair on the independent National Chiefs Task Force on Native Land Claims. In January 1994 he was appointed a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division), now the Superior Court of Justice, Ontario. At the time of his appointment he was one of only 3 Aboriginal judges ever appointed to this level of trial court in Canada. In November 2004 Justice LaForme was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. He is the first Aboriginal person to be appointed to sit on any appellate court in the history of Canada.
For further information: Josée Bellemare, Press Secretary Office of the Honourable Chuck Strahl, (819) 997-0002; Kimberly Phillips, Office of the Interim Executive Director, Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, (613) 219-5872
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