In her role as a lawyer at Woodward and Company, Vanessa’s key areas of practice are corporate/commercial and intellectual property. By assisting First Nations to establish fair legislation, good governance, and sound corporate structures, she assists her clients in their pursuit of economic development in a manner that upholds Indigenous legal traditions.
Originally from Montreal, Vanessa decided to relocate permanently to Victoria to pursue her career in Aboriginal law. She’s keenly interested in Indigenous culture and art (and its intersections with land and governance) and is determined to help First nations preserve these intangible elements of their heritage and traditional knowledge.
Vanessa holds both a B.C.L. (civil law degree) and a LL.B. (common law degree) from McGill University, where she also held the position of director of research at the McGill Legal Information Clinic. She went on to pursue a masters focusing on Indigenous law and Aboriginal law under the supervision of John Borrows at the University of Victoria. During that time, she also worked with UVic’s Indigenous Law Research Unit, visiting Indigenous communities to conduct focus groups with community members to help articulate traditional water laws.
Backed by a strong background in corporate law and inspired by the vibrancy of First Nations cultures, Vanessa’s practice seeks to further the interests of Indigenous communities and help implement Indigenous legal traditions in a contemporary way.
Selected Presentations & Publications
“Intellectual Property – What’s in it for Indigenous People(s)?” Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education (Vancouver, October 22, 2016)
“Teepees and Trade-Marks: Aboriginal Peoples, Stereotypes and Intellectual Property” Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (Montreal, April 16, 2015)
“Victory Through Honour: Reconciling Canadian Intellectual Property Laws with Kwakwaka’wakw
Cultural Property Laws” (LL.M. Thesis, University of Victoria, 2018) link
“The Appropriation of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage: Examining the Uses and Pitfalls of the Canadian Intellectual Property Regime”, IPinCH Blog post (November 19, 2015) link
Assistant: Elizabeth Letawsky
Member, Barreau du Québec (2009)
Member, Law Society of B.C. (2018))
Finalist, Young Quebecers Leading the Way Award (2015)
Finalist, Young Bar Association of Montreal, Prix “Les leaders de demain” (leadership award), pro bono category (2015)
When she’s not working or caring for her beloved dog, Vanessa likes to be involved in her community and supports the work of local environmental organizations and grassroots activists.