PLEASE NOTE: There will be no translation services at this year's symposium.

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Senator Patti LaBoucane-Benson is a Métis from Treaty 6 territory in Alberta. Her 30-year career has been dedicated to serving her community in Alberta, across Canada and around the world—as the director of a Boys and Girls Club in St. Paul in 1990, through 23 years of service at Native Counselling Services of Alberta (NCSA), and Conference Director and Lead Facilitator of the Nelson Mandela Dialogues in Canada, an international gathering of freedom fighters that took place on Enoch Cree Nation in 2017.

Patti’s research for her PhD in Human Ecology (University of Alberta) focused on how Indigenous families and communities experience their own resilience in response to multiple forms of trauma. Her lifelong work has become an extended conversation about healing from historic trauma.

Patti’s perspectives on this conversation are rooted in her transformative experiences of the Cree ceremony. The Elders’ teachings of kindness, respect, humility, and honesty have informed her life as well as her research into best practices for Indigenous offender healing, domestic violence, and historic trauma-informed service delivery. Her most recent research bridges neuroscience and Indigenous knowledge of child development, as well as finding common ground between Western and Indigenous water science.

As a recognized catalyst for change, Dr. LaBoucane-Benson was appointed to Alberta Ministerial Panel for Child Intervention (2017-18) that resulted in Bill 18: Child Protection and Accountability Act. The primary focus of the panel was reducing the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care in Alberta.

Patti brought her PhD research to life through a work of creative non-fiction, an award-winning graphic novel—The Outside Circle (House of Anansi, 2015)—that tells the story of an inner-city Aboriginal family who transcend poverty, gang affiliation, and hopelessness. Her teaching materials are used in classrooms across Canada and in training sessions for professionals.

Dr. LaBoucane-Benson continues to share her knowledge of healing from historic trauma with educators, healthcare professionals, lawyers and policy makers, as well as Indigenous communities. She believes that healing and reconciliation dialogue is the way forward in Canada, with focus on surfacing the common ground between Western and Indigenous people. The best, most useful policy and legislation will reflect this shared space that unites us as a society.

Appointed to the Senate in October 2018, Senator Patti LaBoucane-Benson lives fully in the space that helps define Canada. She is an avid gardener and her husband Allen is a traditional Nehiyaw (Cree) hunter; they believe that food security includes the respectfully harvest of food from the land.  They live near Stony Plain, Alberta, with their son Gabriel, on an acreage that has hosted ceremony, workshops, and dozens of transformational conversations with Elders, elected officials, and leaders from around the world.

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John Reilly sat as a judge for over 30 years. For the first half of his career he was a 'disciple of deterrence',  and believed in the punitive justice system. In the second half of his career he saw the system failing the Indigenous people and made it a mission to improve the delivery of justice to them. He learned the basic difference in the Euro-centric and Indigenous concepts of justice was that the Euro-centric saw a wrongdoer as a bad person who required punishment, the indigenous saw a wrongdoing that was the result of ignorance in need of teaching or illness in need of healing. He became a convert to restorative justice, an advocate of its use and of better understanding between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

He has written three books that tell of his experience and his current critical view of the Canadian Criminal Justice system.

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In his current role as District Alternative Resolutions Coordinator Simon maintains a strong cultural/indigenous footprint within the NZ Police Service to oversee Iwi Liaison & Ethnic Liaison officers, along with holding a number of portfolios such as indigenous alternative justice, cultural legislation, community programs etc.

In his previous position as the Southland Iwi Liaison, Simon worked closely and directly with the wider community. Simon has retained his passion for developing partnerships that enhance the capabilities and capacity of community members to reduce recidivism and the current overrepresentation of Maori within the NZ criminal justice system.

Simon has been privileged to implement a number of projects in the Southern district. Two projects in particular; the Maori Wardens Project and Te Pae Oranga/lwi Community Panels have provided support to, and successfully, reduced reoffending rates for low level offenders. Simon has also been involved with the Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit and Support (CACTUS), driving program and referral apps.

Simon is a recipient of the Woolf Fisher Police Fellowship from the Woolf Fisher Family Foundation in New Zealand for his work with Alternative Justice through Iwi Community Panels. 

Simon recently completed a scholarly visit to Saskatchewan Canada coordinated by the Saskatchewan Polytechnic to collaborate, learn and present to a number of organizations such as File Hills Police Service, Regina Police Service, Saskatoon Police Service, Prince Albert Police Service and the Prince Albert Grant Council to observe a range of initiatives relating to indigenous peoples and communities.

Simon also visited the Saskatchewan Polytechnic to observe the Justice Programs; Aboriginal Policing Preparation, Correctional Studies and the Community Safety Officer programs.

Simon has a passion for building indigenous capability to work with communities and partners, collectively working towards the common goal of reducing offending rates.

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