Pam Palmater – Biography

Dr. Pamela D. Palmater is a Mi’kmaw citizen and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick. She is a mother of two boys, Mitchell and Jeremy ages 20 and 18 and comes from a large family of 8 sisters and 3 brothers. She has been a practicing lawyer for 14 years and she holds the position of Associate Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance in the Department of Politics and Public Administration, and heads the Centre for Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University.

She completed her Doctorate in the Science of Law (JSD) in Aboriginal Law at Dalhousie University Law School in 2009. In addition, she holds a Master of Laws (LLM) in Aboriginal Law, a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) with an award in environmental and natural resources law, and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) with a double major in Native Studies and History. Her Masters thesis focused on the Aboriginal and treaty right to cross the Canada-US border, while her doctoral thesis focused on the Indian Act’s registration and band membership provisions.

Pam has been working and volunteering in the area of First Nations issues for over 25 years. She has diverse experience working with a wide range of social and legal issues facing First Nations, like off-reserve First Nation housing, child and family services, as well as treaty rights, education and legislation impacting First Nations. She has worked with both individual First Nations and First Nations organizations delivering information sessions, training and related presentations. As a result, she has been nominated for several prestigious awards, and most recently awarded the 2012 YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Social Justice.

She also has diverse professional experience which has given her critical insight into law and policy impacting First Nations. She has worked as a senior Director at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada in the areas of treaties, land claims and self-government and as legal counsel at Justice Canada on First Nation issues. She has also worked as an investigator at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission dealing with human rights complaints. This legal experience has given her a unique insight into federal and provincial policy development, mandates, priorities and strategies with regards to First Nations.

Pam’s area of expertise is in Indigenous law, politics, and governance. She has been researching and writing on issues impacting First Nations governance. Her book, Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity, considers the legal, political and social problems of federal-imposed Indian registration with regards to band membership and self-government citizenship. She has also published in the areas of Aboriginal and treaty rights, legislation and law-making, First Nation education, poverty and politics. Her most recent contribution was the report entitled: Our Children, Our Future, Our Vision: First Nation Jurisdiction over First Nation Education for the Chiefs of Ontario in response to the National Panel on Education.

Pam also engages with Canadian society on these issues by speaking and delivering training sessions to unions, churches, universities, high schools, governments and businesses with a view to educating the public about the historical context and facts behind the inaccurate myths and stereotypes impacting First Nation and Canadian relations. She is known for her focus on fact-based discussions and debate and acts as a frequent political commentator for APTN National News, InFocus, CTV, CBC and other media outlets.

For further information about Pam, please consult her website:

Angie TurnerPam Palmater – Biography