Who's Who of Professional Women


Lydia Hwitsum

Lydia A. Hwitsum, Xtli’li ye’ former Chief, is a lawyer who holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Victoria in British Columbia (BC), Canada, and is proud to represent her heritage as the first Cowichan woman to obtain a law degree. Her mother was born in 1924, during a time when the indigenous peoples of Canada, and specifically women, were subject to discrimination under the Indian Act. Ms. Hwitsum saw her mother as a strong role model and sought a career in the law to gain the credibility and strength to speak up for her people.

Today, as a public policy legal expert in human rights and governance with more than 25 years of experience, Ms. Hwitsum excels in multiple leadership positions – as the treaty commissioner with the BC Treaty Commission, the principal consultant of Hwitsum Consulting, which she founded in 1997, and a council member with the BC First Nations Justice Council. Also, since 2022, she has been the co-chair of the First Nations Water Table in British Columbia with the First Nations Water Caucus. Previously, Ms. Hwitsum represented the Cowichan tribes as the chief councilor from 2022 to 2024 and held the same title from 2007 to 2011 and 1997 to 2001.

Bearing her great-grandmother’s name as an ever-present reminder of her traditional roots, Ms. Hwitsum earned her law degree in 1997, an achievement she considers the highlight of her career. Also, notably, she was recognized for her academic excellence with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Victoria. Alongside her law degree, Ms. Hwitsum earned a Certificate of Administration of Aboriginal Governments and a diploma in public sector management from her alma mater. Committed to personal and professional development, she completed dispute resolution training with the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

Deeply involved civically through the years, from 1999 to 2006, Ms. Hwitsum was a member of the board of directors for the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development, concurrently acting as a political executive for the First Nations Summit Society from 2004 to 2006. Having participated in the First Nations community of Canada, she was a member of the board of directors for the Assembly of First Nations with the National Women’s Council from 2008 to 2010. Additionally, she has presented at the United Nations Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and for the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Throughout her lengthy career, Ms. Hwitsum also has contributed to the First Nations Health Authority, Royal Roads University, the First Nations Summit in British Columbia, and the First Nations Market Housing Fund. Since 2020, she has been a member of the UNDRIP Task Group with the First Nations Fisheries Council of British Columbia. In recognition of her commitment to public service, Ms. Hwitsum received the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal and the Marquis Who’s Who Humanitarian Award.

Ms. Hwitsum is thankful for her mother’s lessons, which have helped to keep her grounded. She takes pride in her heritage and her values and always remembers her roots as she travels the world. Without her mother’s unflinching support, Ms. Hwitsum knows she would not have the courage or confidence to pursue her dreams. Ultimately, she strives to have a significant impact on the rights of First Nations people by influencing the development of laws, policies, and regulations in Canada. Her hopes are to elevate the voices of her people in the legal process and bring about positive changes, addressing the harmful, ongoing effects of colonialism and implementing practical solutions. In her free time, she relishes time with her family, traveling, knitting, and staying active by playing sports, especially co-ed recreational soccer.


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