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Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond Receives the 2021 Ellen Meiksins Wood Prize

The Broadbent Institute is pleased to announce that it has awarded the 2021 Ellen Meiksins Wood Prize to renowned lawyer, judge, and children and youth advocate, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Aki-Kwe.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s decades of advocacy for children and youth and her many extraordinary contributions as a lawyer and a judge to advancing Indigenous rights make her an outstanding recipient for the Wood Prize.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Aki-Kwe, is internationally recognized for her work as British Columbia’s first Representative for Children and Youth. Over the course of a decade in that role, she worked with Indigenous communities to address the legacy of residential schools through reforming child welfare, language revitalization, and criminal justice innovation.

Prior to that, she served as a Saskatchewan Provincial Court judge for 20 years, and she continues to bring her extensive experience in Indigenous law to her current work as a practicing lawyer and as a Professor of Law at the Peter Allard School of Law and the inaugural Director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond holds a Doctorate in Law from Harvard Law School, a Masters degree in international law from Cambridge University, and a J.D. law degree from York University’s Osgoode Hall. She is a member of the Indigenous Bar as well as the Law Societies of British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan. She’s been awarded honourary degrees from nine Canadian universities and Schools of Law and is the author of more than 50 published works and reports.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says: “It is an honour to receive this prize from the Broadbent Institute in memory of Ellen Meiksins Wood. Ellen was passionate in her belief that society has the power to enact social change. In my work at the Centre, especially in partnership with Indigenous Peoples and communities, ensuring that the voices and participation of women and children are supported and heard is something that Ellen would insist on, and this award is humbling and connects me to a woman I admire.”

Institute Chair and Founder, Ed Broadbent says: “Mary Ellen’s outstanding contribution to Canada as a judge, as an academic, and as an activist, particularly her activism on behalf of the rights of children and the rights of Indigenous peoples has made possible a life of dignity for many who would otherwise have suffered greatly. Her current work as the inaugural Academic Director of the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia, as well as that on the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the province of British Columbia, are further evidence of her exemplary leadership. The Institute is proud to award this prize to Mary Ellen.”

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond will deliver the annual Ellen Meiksins Wood lecture in the fall of 2021.

About the Ellen Meiksins Wood Prize
The Wood Prize – awarded annually by the Broadbent Institute’s Board of Directors to recognize the outstanding contributions of an academic, labour activist or writer – honours Ellen Wood’s legacy, bringing her work to new generations of Canadians. The Prize includes a $10,000 cash award, and requires the Prize winner to deliver the Ellen Meiksins Wood Lecture. Previous recipients have included UK author and activist Paul Mason, US writer Barbara Ehrenreich, and trade union leader Leo Gerard.

About Ellen Meiksins Wood
Ellen Meiksins Wood was an internationally renowned scholar, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and author of eight books published in a dozen languages. One of the most influential political theorists of her generation, Ellen was also passionately committed to making progress in the here and now. For her, in the deepest sense, democracy means “nothing more nor less than people’s power, or even the power of the common people or the poor.” Ellen passed away in January of 2016.

For more information on Ellen Meiksins Wood Prize and Lecture please visit: