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‘Unwavering commitment’

Nunatsiavut-born lawyer named associate VP (Indigenous research)


By Jeff Green

Internationally respected lawyer and award-winning Indigenous rights advocate Violet Ford is Memorial’s new associate vice-president (Indigenous research) (AVPIR).

Violet Ford, wearing a black shirt and pink-coloured jacket, poses for a photo.
Violet Ford
Photo: Submitted

Ms. Ford began in her role on Sept. 7. The appointment is for a five-year term and is renewable.

Originally, from Makkovik, Labrador, Ms. Ford is the first Indigenous woman to become a lawyer in this province, as well as Canada’s first woman lawyer of Inuit ancestry.

Deeply committed to Indigenous law and justice, Ms. Ford played a role in the drafting of provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples related to intellectual property rights and cultural heritage.

She is currently a PhD candidate in Inuit legal traditions at the Faculty of Law, University of Lapland, Finland.

“I am delighted to welcome Ms. Ford to the Memorial community and back to Newfoundland and Labrador.” — Dr. Neil Bose

The Board of Regents approved her appointment after an extensive search involving members of the university community and Indigenous Elders, which was led by Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research).

In addition to serving as AVPIR, Ms. Ford is also appointed associate professor with the School of Arctic and Subarctic Studies of the Labrador Institute.

Ms. Ford succeeds Dr. Max Liboiron who served as AVPIR from September 2018–August 2020.

‘Excellent candidate’

“A tireless advocate of Indigenous rights, Ms. Ford brings significant international experience to Memorial, including an unwavering commitment to protecting and advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Dr. Bose.

“I am delighted to welcome Ms. Ford to the Memorial community and back to Newfoundland and Labrador. Her strong legal background and vision to strengthen Indigenous research at Memorial made her an excellent candidate for this pan-university leadership role. I thank the members of the search committee for their service and thank and acknowledge the Indigenous Elders for their important and meaningful contributions during this process.”

Strengthening Indigenous research

As AVPIR, Ms. Ford will work directly with Dr. Bose and other senior leaders within the research portfolio and across the university to achieve the strategic objectives of the research portfolio and increase the impact and integrity of research at Memorial, with a primary focus on research involving and relating to Indigenous communities.

“I am eager to begin working closely with Indigenous communities.” — Violet Ford

She will focus on building relationships with Indigenous communities and leaders in Canada, especially within Newfoundland and Labrador on both community-identified and researcher-led research priorities.

She will also provide leadership on Memorial’s Research Impacting Indigenous Groups policy and the Indigenous Research Agreement and work with the Committee on Ethical Research Impacting Indigenous Groups and Peer Advisory Group on Indigenous Research Relationships.

Vast experience

Ms. Ford comes to Memorial from Ottawa, where she ran a private law office.

Lauded for her work and advocacy in Indigenous law and justice, she received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for her outstanding contributions to the field.

A former law professor at Lakehead University, she served as vice-president at the Inuit Circumpolar Council, where she was an advisor and negotiator on international environmental treaties and the rights of Inuit in the promotion and protection of Inuit traditional knowledge and related ethical applications.

Ms. Ford was senior advisor on Indigenous rights with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and director of policy with the Native Women’s Association of Canada. She was also senior commission counsel with the National Inquiry of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

She holds a bachelor of laws degree from Dalhousie University and a bachelor of arts degree from Mount Saint Vincent University.

“I am privileged to receive this appointment,” she noted. “I am eager to begin working closely with Indigenous communities in the efforts towards decolonizing research and in advancing Memorial’s strategic priorities for Indigenization.”

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