Pam Palmater exemplifies St. Thomas’ tradition of leading the way for social justice.
A citizen of the Mi’kmaq Nation and member of Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick, Palmater started her post-secondary education at St. Thomas University. After completing her Bachelor of Arts, double majoring in Native Studies and History, she earned her Bachelor of Laws from UNB, a Master of Laws in Aboriginal Law from Dalhousie University, and a Doctor of the Science of Law in Aboriginal Law from Dalhousie; all of this while raising two children.
Palmater is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics at Ryerson University and the Chair in Indigenous Governance. She has also been a practicing lawyer for the last 15 years and a member of the Law Society of New Brunswick.
Recently, she was named one of Canada’s Top 5 Most Influential Lawyers in Human Rights, awarded the Women’s Courage Award in Social Justice, and the YWCA’s Woman of Distinction Award in Social Justice.
Palmater became interested in First Nation legal and political issues as a young adult, already volunteering and working with communities before arriving at STU.
She says her Bachelor of Arts expanded her knowledge and gave herself a solid foundation for future success.
“It was because of my Bachelor of Arts that I was able to get into law school and become a lawyer focused on Indigenous legal issues. It was in part, because of my double major in Native Studies and History, that I was able to teach Indigenous courses part-time while I did my legal grad work.”
After her many degrees and years as a professional, Palmater appreciates the skills and work ethic STU promotes.
“My Bachelor of Arts is relevant to my work every single day. Whether I am teaching Indigenous courses at Ryerson, researching Indigenous issues for publication, or working in First Nations on Indigenous law and governance; I couldn’t have done this without the solid base I received at STU.”
Idle No More
Palmater has been heavily involved with the Idle No More movement, becoming a leading voice for the cause.
“My experience in the Idle No More movement when it first started was amazing. A spark was lit in our people and without any money or bureaucracy or politicians telling us what to do, we spontaneously came together and celebrated our identities and cultures.”
Educating and empowering indigenous people has always been Palmater’s goal, and she is hopeful for what the future holds.
“The movement inspired people all over the world and garnered international attention. I think in the near future, First Nations and Canadians will be called upon to enter the phase which comes after education—that is real action to address injustice in this country.”