Jeannette Corbiere Lavell

Meet Jeanette Corbiere Lavell, a Canadian Activist, educator and community worker. Jeanette is living proof that when one woman takes action against inequality, she can change the way the people view a norm in society.

An Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) woman, Jeanette is one of several indigenous women who brought to light the gendered discrimination that First Nations women have faced under the law. Jeannette, along with many other women fought for what she knew was right despite facing opposition and massive roadblocks along the way.

In 1970 she married a non-Indigenous man and learned that under the Indian Act, women who marry non-status men were to be denied status (though men did not face the same denial). Jeannette knew that this was discrimination against Indigenous women on the basis of gender and was a violation of the Canadian Bill of Rights. So she went to court and fought for her rights. Ultimately she lost to the Canadian court, but in 1981, the United Nations Human Rights Committee stepped in and ruled that the gendered status provision in the Indian Act was a violation of Indigenous women’s rights. Had Jeanette and women like her not stood up and fought for what they knew was right, this may never have been brought to light and may never have changed.

Jeannette has been actively involved in community leadership and development, working in Indigenous women’s empowerment. She was a founding member of the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA), an NPO that supports and empowers Indigenous women. She has also been involved in numerous other Indigenous organizations. Jeannette has actively fought for the rights of Indigenous women in Canada and has worked to support and empower them, encouraging and enabling women to reach their full potential.

In 2009, she was even award with the Persons Award by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, an award given to those who fight for women’s rights in Canada.

Jeannette is an example to us all that when a woman chooses to stand up for what she knows is right, she can change not only her own life, but set a path that will impact the lives of so many women to follow.

 

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