Four Indigenous leaders and one of Canada’s most successful Olympic athletes receive honorary degrees from the University of Victoria during spring convocation ceremonies next week.
• Clara Hughes won six Olympic cycling and speed skating medals, tied for the most career medals among Canadian athletes. She is also the national spokesperson for “Let’s Talk,” Bell Canada’s mental health awareness initiative, and has detailed her personal struggles with depression to help break down the stigma associated with mental illness. Hughes receives an honorary doctor of laws degree on Tuesday, June 14.
• Mary Simon has devoted her life to achieving social justice for the Inuit and a meaningful role in the environmental, economic and political decisions that influence their lives. She was a senior Inuit negotiator in talks leading to the recognition of Aboriginal rights in the Constitution Act of 1982. She helped form the eight-nation Arctic Council, including permanent Indigenous participation in its responses to issues facing the North. Simon receives an honorary doctor of laws degree on Wednesday, June 15.
• Dr. Richard Atleo, a hereditary chief of the Ahousaht First Nation, will be honoured for his academic and environmental leadership when he receives an honorary doctor of education degree on Wednesday, June 15. He helped create the First Nations Studies Department at Vancouver Island University and co-chaired (from 1993 to ‘95) the B.C. government’s Scientific Panel for Sustainable Forest Practices in Clayoquot Sound.
• Bill Mussell is a leading promoter of health and wellness of Indigenous children, youth, families and communities. A member of the Skwah First Nation (Sto:lo), his life’s work has addressed the impacts of colonization – especially residential schools – on the lives of Indigenous peoples. Mussell receives an honorary doctor of education degree Friday, June 17.
• Frank Parnell has devoted himself to improving the economic self-reliance of B.C.’s north coast region, especially among Indigenous peoples. A member of the Haida Nation, he is president and CEO of TRICORP, the Tribal Resources Investment Corporation, a financial services company that has provided more than $28 million in financing to Indigenous entrepreneurs. Parnell receives an honorary doctor of laws degree on Friday, June 17.
Honorary degrees are the university’s highest academic honour. They will be granted along with 3,458 degrees, diplomas and certificates to graduating students during nine ceremonies June 13 to 17 in the University Centre Farquhar Auditorium.. Spring convocation will stream live at uvic.ca/convocation.