Anishinaabemda Paaneh (“Let’s Always Use Our Language”)

  • June 28, 2021
  • Patricia Hania, Ph.D., and R. Martin Bayer

Patricia Hania, Ph.D., a member of the OBA Aboriginal Law Section Executive, and assistant professor in Law & Business Department, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, Toronto interviews R. Martin Bayer, who is a member of the Aundeck Omni-Kaning First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. He has been a member of the Law Society of Ontario since 1996 and is a partner with Weaver, Simmons, Barristers & Solicitors in Sudbury, Ontario. More about Martin's biography and achievements below. 


On June 21, 2019, the Indigenous Languages Act received Royal Assent in recognition that existing living Indigenous languages in Canada are considered ‘endangered’. The federal government passed this legislation with the view to strengthen Indigenous languages, and as an act of reconciliation. 

With the recognition of Indigenous language within UNDRIP and other legal instruments, I recently spoke with Martin Bayer, an Indigenous lawyer, to better understand his perspective on the importance of Indigenous language in his legal practice. Our engaging conversation focused on five questions, and his responses are presented below:

1. As an Anishinaabemowin (also known as Ojibwe) language speaker, please introduce yourself, and your community.

Martin dizhnicaus, Manitou M’Nissing dowen ji baah. (My name is Martin and I am from Manitoulin Island.) 

2. Martin, please describe how your legal career and practice has developed over the years.

Currently, as a partner at Weaver-Simmons, my area of practice is primarily focused on Aboriginal Law, Mining and Natural Resources Law, Business Corporate and Commercial Law, and Tax Law.

This current area of practice is informed by my personal and professional life experiences where after graduating from U of T law school, completing my articles with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and then, after working for DOJ for three years in the Aboriginal Law section,  I realized that “my feet never touched the ground .... I was always walking on concrete.” It was time for a change. So, in 2002, I returned to my community on Manitoulin Island, the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation. I was raised on the M’Chigeeng First Nation, formerly known as the West Bay Indian Reserve and returned there in the capacity of Tribal Chair of the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin. In this role, and in support of the six communities I represented, we commenced litigation against the Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources with respect to the Ontario government’s initiative called “Operation Rainbow” that illegally targeted First Nation community hunters and fishers.