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Professor Naiomi Metallic Wins Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Law

Posted by Amanda Kirby-Sheppard on June 6, 2024 in News, Research, Awards
Naiomi Metallic (Provided Photo)
Naiomi Metallic (Provided Photo)

Congratulations to Schulich Law Associate Professor Naiomi Metallic (BA ’02, LLB ’05), the 2024 recipient of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Law. The award is given by the CBA to recognize outstanding contributions in law reform, legal scholarship and/or legal research.

Nominated by her three colleagues, Jason Cooke, Ashley Hamp-Gonsalves and Derek Simon, at Burchell Wickwire Bryson LLP, Metallic was presented with the award at the CBA President’s Dinner in Gatineau, Q.C. on June 5.

“This means so much to me, especially given the reasons why I decided to pursue academia after about a decade of a rewarding full-time practice,” she shares.

In 2011, Metallic found herself working on a case involving the delivery of social assistance in First Nations communities. Although she thought she knew a lot about Aboriginal law, she says that this case taught her how systemic discrimination was baked into the delivery of essential services in First Nations.

She recalls that as they got deeper in the case, it struck her that they were trying to educate judges about an extremely complex area, in what amounted to a legislative and scholarly vacuum.

“Not only was there no existing legislation in this area but there also wasn’t even scholarship to describe how problematic this was,” she says. “That was the moment when I decided that I could be a better advocate for Indigenous peoples within academia.”

Since Metallic joined Schulich Law in 2016, one of her priorities has been writing about the issues with the rule of law and chronic underfunding of First Nations essential services. She has published and been part of several joint publications explaining the systemic problems in the delivery of First Nations essential services by Canada and the provinces as a human rights violation.

Her work, along with the efforts of many others including Dr. Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations Caring Society, helped influence the passing of federal legislation on Indigenous child welfare (recognizing the inherent right to self-government and implementing its exercise in child welfare was a first in Canada). Her scholarship was cited in the Supreme Court of Canada decision upholding this legislation.

Even more recently, she also relied on this scholarship in submissions to the Supreme Court about how systemic problems in First Nations policing necessitate court intervention through the Honour of the Crown.

“I have told my students, my own experience shows that there is a really important role for legal scholarship in the justice system,” says Metallic. “Lawyers and law professors alike should be reading and writing scholarship. It is so important in assisting policymakers and judges to reach just outcomes.”