The Honourable Murray Sinclair LLB MSC IPC.
The Honourable Murray Sinclair’s legal credentials are well known. What is less well known is that he is Anishinaabe and a member of the Peguis First Nation. He is a Fourth Degree Chief of the Midewiwin Society, a traditional healing and spiritual society of the Anishinaabe Nation responsible for protecting the teachings, ceremonies, laws, and history of the Anishinaabe. His Spirit Name is Mizhana Gheezhik (The One Who Speaks of Pictures in the Sky).
He graduated from law school in 1979. He has been involved with the justice system in Manitoba for over 40 years, first as a lawyer representing Indigenous clients, as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Robson Hall, as Associate Chief Judge of Manitoba’s Provincial Court and as a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench. He was the first Indigenous Judge appointed in Manitoba and Canada’s second.
He served as Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba and as Chief Commissioner of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As head of the TRC, he participated in hundreds of hearings across Canada, culminating in the TRC’s widely influential report in 2015. He also oversaw an active multi-million dollar fundraising program to support various TRC events and activities, and to allow survivors to travel to attend TRC events. In 2017 Governor General Julie Payette awarded him and the other TRC Commissioners the Meritorious Service Cross (Civilian) (MSC) for service to Canada for their work on the TRC.
He was active within the profession and his community and was a member of the faculty of the National Judicial Institute training judges about Indigenous law and social justice issues. He has won numerous awards, including the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Manitoba Bar Association’s Equality Award (2001), its Distinguished Service Award (2016) and the CBA President’s medal (2018). He has been named as one of Canada’s Indigenous People’s Counsel (IPC) by the Indigenous Bar Association.
He has received Honorary Doctorates from 14 universities. He retired from the Bench in January 2016, and was appointed to the Senate on April 2, 2016. He retired from the Senate effective January 31, 2021, to return to the practice of law and to mentor young lawyers. He is currently writing his memoirs.
He has been invited to speak throughout Canada and internationally, including the Cambridge Lectures for members of the Judiciary of the Commonwealth Courts. He continues to maintain an active public speaking schedule and became the 15th Chancellor of Queen’s University in July 2021.
Joe Williams is a Wiradjuri/Wolgalu, First Nations man born in Cowra, NSW. Having lived a 15 year span as a professional sports person, playing in the National Rugby League for South Sydney Rabbitohs, Penrith Panthers and Canterbury Bulldogs before switching to professional Boxing in 2009. Although forging a successful professional sporting career, Joe battled the majority of his life with suicidal ideation and Bi-Polar Disorder. After a suicide attempt in 2012, he felt his purpose was to help people who struggle with mental illness through his foundation The Enemy Within.
Joe is an author having released his own autobiography titled Defying The Enemy Within in 2018 and in 2017 was named as finalist in the National Indigenous Human Rights Awards for his work with suicide prevention and fighting for equality for Australia’s First Nations people. Joe received the Wagga Citizen of the Year in 2015 for his work within the community, mental health and suicide prevention sectors and in 2018 received Suicide Prevention Australia’s highest honour, a LiFE Award for his dedication and work in community in the mental health and suicide prevention sector. More recently, Joe was named a dual winner of the Australian Mental Health Prize in Nov 2019.
The first Inuk player in history to be drafted by the NHL, JORDIN TOOTOO announced his retirement after 13 years in the league to give back to the communities he knows and loves. Bringing a message of inspired inclusivity, Tootoo speaks to the need for real teamwork—at work and in our social communities. A trailblazer on and off the ice, Tootoo’s talks offer a moving and timely discussion of grit and resilience, goal-setting, overcoming adversity in the pursuit of excellence, and how life can be improved through meaningful stewardship.
Jordin Tootoo played for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League (WHL) from 1999 to 2003 before being chosen by the Nashville Predators in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. He went on to play with the Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks, banking 161 points, including 65 goals in 723 career games. Of Inuit and Ukrainian descent, Tootoo is not just the first Inuk player, but also the first one raised in Nunavut to play in the NHL. As an Indigenous athletic leader, Tootoo has long understood his responsibility as a role model, speaking openly about the need for mental health resources, and fighting the taboos around discussing mental illness. He is committed to reaching Canada’s Indigenous communities through his work with the Team Tootoo Foundation, founded in honor of his late brother Terence. He was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for his work in Nunavut promoting healthy living and encouraging conversations about difficult topics like addiction and suicide.
“It’s part of Canada that a lot of people struggle with mental health and addiction, suicide, these issues are a national epidemic. I feel that, at this point in my life, it’s my calling to give back to a lot of these remote communities,” says Tootoo. Bestselling author of the memoir All The Way: My Life on Ice, Tootoo brings an uplifting message to his audiences, creating a culture of inspired inclusivity with authentic hockey and community stories.
Tanaya Winder is an author, singer/songwriter, and motivational speaker who comes from an intertribal lineage of Southern Ute, Pyramid Lake Paiute, and Duckwater Shoshone Nations where she is an enrolled citizen. She is a 2016 National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development “40 Under 40” list of emerging American Indian leaders recipient. Winder co-founded As/Us: A Space for Women of the World, a literary magazine publishing works by BIPOC women.
Winder’s poetry collections include Words Like Love and Why Storms are Named After People and Bullets Remain Nameless. Her specialties include youth & women empowerment, healing trauma through art, creative writing workshops, and mental wellness advocacy. Winder’s performances and talks blend storytelling, singing, and spoken word to teach about different expressions of love and “heartwork.”
Dr. Carol Hopkins.
Dr. Carol Hopkins is the Executive Director of the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation (a division of the National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation) and is of the Lenape Nation at Moraviantown, ON. Carol was appointed as an Officer in the Order of Canada, 2018. In 2019, she was recognized with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Western University.
Carol Hopkins has spent more than 20 years in the field of First Nations addictions and mental health. She holds both a Master of Social Work Degree from the University of Toronto and a degree in sacred Indigenous Knowledge, equivalent to a PhD in western based education systems. Carol holds a sessional faculty position in the school of social work at Kings University College at Western University.
Carol has co-chaired national initiatives known for best practice in national policy review and development, resulting in the: First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework (FNMWC), the Honouring Our Strengths: A Renewed Framework to Address Substance Use Issues Among First Nations in Canada, the Indigenous Wellness Framework, and best practice guidelines for culturally based inhalant abuse treatment. Carol has also inspired the development of the Native Wellness Assessment. In recognition of this work, Carol received the Champions of Mental Health Award 2015 for Research/Clinician, and the Health Canada Innovations Award. Carol has served many initiatives, and leadership positions; such as, a member of the leadership advisory council to the Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and a part of the Canadian delegation to the 2016 United Nations General Assembly, Special Session on the World Drug Problem, mental health advisory council to the federal Minister of Health, the Canadian Pain Management Task Force, Safe Supply Expert Advisory Group, Assembly of First Nations Health Accord Task Force, Cannabis Task Team, Pandemic Planning Team, MMIWG Data Working Group, Northern Public Health Working Groups on Reopening & Mental Wellness.
Michael is from Aotearoa, New Zealand. He descends from the Te Arawa confederation of tribes in the central North Island. His work in Indigenous and Māori suicide prevention has seen him travel the world speaking and advocating for Indigenous philosophies and methodologies. Alongside his tribe of Ngāti Pikao, Michael helped set up the inaugural World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference and Youth Summit in 2016, held in Aotearoa New Zealand. There, Sir Mason Durie delivered the Tūramarama Declaration. Since then, Michael has played a key role in promoting and sharing the Tūramarama Declaration globally. Correspondingly, Michael led the development of the Tūramarama ki te Ora to address Māori suicide which was fully endorsed by the Iwi (tribal nations) Chairs. Since then, he has continued to advise on the global organizing committee in Australia and now Canada. His focus now, is to complete his PHD research on preventing Māori suicide. He says that evidence on Māori and Indigenous suicide prevention is somewhat lacking and he aims to change that, “it’s important we change the narrative beyond the constructs of psychology and into the realms of Indigenous knowledge and be unapologetic about doing that.”