Renée Pelletier (BA '98) was sent down the path to a career in law after learning her family history.
"I grew up not knowing very much about my Indigenous heritage or background and for a long time felt like I had been robbed of that," Pelletier says. "In junior high school my dad started talking to me about the fact that I am Maliseet."
Together, Pelletier and her father set out on a journey to gather documents needed to regain status.
"My dad was born in 1927 and grew up of outside of his parents' community, outside of the Indigenous community," she says. "And he grew up at a time when some people were not proud to identify as being Indigenous."
The discovery that some in her family were ashamed to identify as Indigenous sparked a realization for Pelletier.
– Renée Pelletier
"That was when I decided I needed to do something about it," she says. "I don't think I quite knew what that was going to be, but I knew that I wanted to make a difference and that I wanted my work to focus on the rights of Indigenous people."
Today, Pelletier is a managing partner at Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, a Toronto-based law firm focusing on advancing the rights of Indigenous peoples.
After earning a degree in communication studies at Laurier, Pelletier attended Osgoode Hall Law School, graduating in 2001. She became a partner at Olthuis Kleer Townshend in 2010 and managing partner in 2011.
"One of the areas of law that I've been practicing for quite some time is what I describe to be at the intersection of Aboriginal law and environmental law," she says. "That is representing communities in their engagement with the government in the environmental assessment processes."
Pelletier also serves as a member of the Government of Canada's independent four-member expert panel reviewing the federal environmental assessment processes.