Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond*/ Akikwe

Senior Associate Counsel

Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond or Aki-kwe is a practising lawyer and tenured full Professor of Law at Peter Allard Hall Law School at the University of British Columbia. She is a member of the Indigenous Bar as well as the Law Societies of British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. Professor Turpel-Lafond is Senior Associate Counsel at Woodward and Company, one of Canada’s leading Indigenous rights law firms. Mary Ellen is the inaugural Director of the Indian Residential School Centre for History and Dialogue at the University of British Columbia.

Professor Turpel-Lafond was a Saskatchewan Provincial Court judge for 20 years (1998-2018) and served as B.C.’s first Representative for Children and Youth from 2006-2016, an independent Officer of the Legislative Assembly. During her time on the bench, Dr. Turpel-Lafond was actively involved in projects relating to better supports for Indigenous peoples, and especially on addressing the unique circumstances needs of children and youth involved in the justice system. Her work as Representative for Children and Youth included detailed and systemic examination of the child serving system and she advocated for the human rights of children, resulting in many needed improvements. In this role, she was responsible for case advocacy for more than 17,000 children, youth and families in all parts of the Province of British Columbia, and across Canada, with the majority of matters involving Indigenous children and families.

Professor Turpel-Lafond holds a Doctorate in Law from Harvard Law School (S.J.D.), a Masters in international law from Cambridge University (Gonville and Caius College), a J.D. law degree from York University’s Osgoode Hall, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton University. She holds a Certificate in the international and comparative law of human rights from the University of Strasbourg. Early in her career, she was a tenured law professor at Dalhousie Law School. She instructed in a number of law schools in Canada and the United States. She has appeared at all levels of court in Canada and served as a mediator and negotiator on land claims, Indigenous and human rights matters, and worked in public law litigation. She is the author of more than 50 published works and reports.

Professor Turpel-Lafond was awarded the distinction of Indigenous Peoples’ Counsel from the Indigenous Bar Association in 2006. She has been awarded honourary degrees from nine Canadian universities and Schools of Law.

Dr. Turpel-Lafond has kinship relations at the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and Norway House Cree Nation and many close friends and relations in the First Nations communities throughout British Columbia and Canada.

* Denotes a law corporation.


Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond


Assistant: Lisa Spaven