The appointment of an Indigenous woman as judge to the BC Supreme Court was heralded with best wishes and hearty congratulations Tuesday from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
The contributions of Ardith (Walpetko We’dalx) Walkem, as the organization’s legal counsel, as well with member nations over three decades, have been “immeasurable,” according to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).
Phillip cited Walkem’s “legal rigour, brilliant mind, warm sense of humour, and principled commitment” to Indigenous people and “to full and fair enactment” of Indigenous title and rights.
He predicted she‘ll stand out as “a shining light of justice” in her new role as a BC Supreme Court Justice, Phillip said in Dec. 15 release from the union of chiefs.
“We celebrate with Ardith this tremendous achievement, recognizing that her appointment makes her the first First Nations woman in this role in British Columbia.”
Walkem grew up in Spences Bridge, B.C., and is a member of the Nlaka’pamux Nation. She articled with Mandell Pinder, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and McDonald and Associates before being called to the Bar in 1996.
Walkem is owner and partner at Cedar and Sage Law. She holds a bachelor of arts from McGill University and bachelor of laws and master of laws degrees from the University of British Columbia, where she has taught in the faculty of law.
“Ardith is a brave and bold thinker who challenges those around her to understand the law and different legal traditions in innovative, transformative ways,” according to Chief Don Tom, UBCIC vice-president. “Her research, work, and teaching have often focused extensively on the application and elevation of Indigenous laws, including in areas of child welfare and specific claims, and have undoubtedly changed the field.”
As the organization’s legal counsel, she was involved in overseeing electoral processes and council work of the union for more than 20 years.
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, union secretary-treasurer, described the recently appointed Walkem as a “leader in reconciliation initiatives,” citing work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission advisory committees of the Law Society of BC and the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC.
“In her new role, Madam Justice Walkem will be a formidable force for justice. We are proud to call her our friend and we wish her all the best in the work ahead.
“On behalf of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, we are honoured and thrilled to celebrate Ardith’s successes today.”
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