Speaker Bios


The Honourable Darrell Dexter

Premier of Nova Scotia and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs

On June 9th, 2009, Nova Scotians made a historic choice when they elected Darrell Dexter to be the first NDP Premier in the province's history. Premier Dexter and his colleagues won a majority government based on the commitment to make life better for Nova Scotians and their families.

First elected to the provincial legislature in 1998 as the MLA for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Premier Dexter became the Leader of the Opposition in May 2001. Prior to entering provincial politics, he served on Dartmouth City Council. A practicing lawyer before he entered public life, Premier Dexter also served as an officer in the Canadian navy and has degrees in law, education and journalism.

Premier Dexter's perspective on politics is rooted in his experiences growing up in Milton, Queens County, a small community on Nova Scotia's south shore. The son of a sheet metal worker, he was the first member of his family to go to university.

He is married to Kelly Wilson and together they have one adult son.

Premier Dexter is committed to growing a strong and prosperous Nova Scotia where people have secure jobs, can raise a family, do business and put down roots in the province.


Dan Christmas

Senior Advisor and Councillor, Membertou First Nation

Mr. Christmas has served in various leadership positions in the Mi'kmaw Nation of Nova Scotia. After serving five years as the Band Manager for the Community of Membertou, Mr. Christmas worked for the Union of Nova Scotia Indians for 15 years - the last 10 as its Director. He was actively involved in the recognition and the implementation of Mi'kmaw aboriginal and treaty rights in Nova Scotia.

Since 1997, he has held the position as Senior Advisor with Membertou and has assisted the Chief and Council and its Management Team with the day-to-day operations of the Community of Membertou.

Mr. Christmas has been active in a number of international, national, provincial and local agencies in a wide range of fields including aboriginal & treaty rights, justice, policing, education, health care, human rights, adult training, business development and the environment. He has served as the chairperson of the Union of Nova Scotia Indians and the Cape Breton Partnership. Dan is now serving his eighth consecutive term as an elective councillor for the Community of Membertou.

In 2005, Mr. Christmas was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Dalhousie University for his work with the Mi'kmaw people of Nova Scotia. In 2008, he was the recipient of the National Excellence in Aboriginal Leadership Award from the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada and the Sparks Award from Novaknowledge for forward thinking.


Sandra Gogal

Partner, Miller Thompson Law Firm

Sandra Gogal has extensive experience in dealing with aboriginal and environmental issues in the natural resource and energy sector. Prior to moving to Ontario in 2005, Ms. Gogal worked both in house and private practice on large resource development projects, including the Lower Churchill Project, a $10 billion hydro electric project in Labrador. While in house, she was responsible for advising general counsel on all matters relating to aboriginal, environmental and regulatory law. In addition to hydro, Ms. Gogal has acted for a number of large industry clients in the mining, hydro, forestry and oil and gas sectors on matters relating to aboriginal consultation, environmental assessments, federal and provincial, and has negotiated several accommodation and impact and benefit agreements between industry and First Nations.

Prior to joining the partnership in 2007, Ms. Gogal was called to the Ontario Bar and went in house with the Ministry of Natural Resources for the Government of Ontario to advise the Ministry on matters relating to aboriginal consultation in the areas of hydro and wind power, forestry and mining, including legislative and policy drafting.

While acting for her industry and government clients over the past 10 years, Ms. Gogal has worked with many aboriginal communities including the First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Her experience in the private and public sectors has proven valuable in providing sound strategic and legal advice to her clients in developing projects on treaty and unsettled aboriginal lands. In addition to negotiating agreements and settlements with aboriginal communities, Ms. Gogal has acted as litigation counsel in aboriginal matters before the Supreme Courts and Superior Courts in Newfoundland and Ontario.

W. Ming Song

Principal, Songbird Law Corporation

W. Ming Song has worked exclusively in the area of Aboriginal law representing First Nations since being called to the Bar in 1992. She first articled and practiced with a national firm providing litigation support and legal advice regarding aboriginal rights and title. Ming has since spent the majority of her law career in various aspects of self-government, reserve land, corporate and commercial transactions, aboriginal rights, and title and treaty. Ming was also an instructor at Capilano College teaching Business Law, Aboriginal Commercial Law and Tourism Law. She is an active member of the Canadian Bar Association and currently sits on the executive of the Vancouver Aboriginal Law Subsection and Treasurer of the National Aboriginal Law Section. Her community work includes sitting on the Board of Directors for Atira Women's Resource Society, a non-profit organization which provides information, housing and support to abused women and children.

Areas of Focus:

  • Governance (jurisdiction, taxation, finance, housing, employment, membership, constitution, election, by-laws)
  • Corporate and Commercial Transaction Agreements
  • Reserve Land (land code, leases, access, use)
  • Aboriginal Rights and Title
  • Indian Act powers and rights
  • Treaty

Alvaro Loyola

Director of Consultation, Nova Scotia Office of Aboriginal Affairs

Alvaro Loyola has recently joined the Nova Scotia Office of Aboriginal Affairs as their Director of Consultation. Before moving to Halifax, he led an Aboriginal consultation team for the Government of Alberta focused primarily on Alberta's oil sands region. Mr. Loyola has extensive experience in the delegation of procedural aspects of consultation to proponents, environmental assessment, and managing processes with First Nations. He has also led the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association and has international development experience with indigenous partner organizations in Central and South America.

Abla Hanna

Major Projects Management Office, Natural Resources Canada

Abla Hanna recently jointed the Aboriginal Affairs group at the Major Projects Management Office where she is working on a guide for proponents, a Crown records management system, and the Whole-of-Government approach to consultation. Prior to this, she led a Strategic Policy team at Health Canada's First Nations and Inuit Health Branch to research, analyze and recommend health programming and service delivery policy. Before joining government Abla was a project manager, consultant and researcher for KTA Consulting. She planned, led and facilitated research and consultation projects on a wide range of topics including Aboriginal policy, health, municipal government, democracy, accountability and seasonal economies and employment.