University of Alberta: Hon. Murray Sinclair to receive honorary degree from U of A

The Honourable Murray Sinclair, the first Indigenous judge in Manitoba and the driving force behind the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, will deliver the commencement address virtually to graduands as part of the University of Alberta’s fall convocation ceremony to be held Nov. 19. Sinclair is Anishinaabe and a member of the Peguis First Nation.

“On behalf of the University of Alberta Senate and all members of our university community, I’m so pleased that the Honourable Murray Sinclair has accepted an honorary degree from the U of A,” said chancellor Peggy Garritty.

“His impact, not only for Indigenous Peoples but for all Canadians, is profound and will last for generations to come. To me, his spirit name — Mizhana Gheezhik (The One Who Speaks With Pictures) — captures perfectly the way he has been able, through words, stories and actions, to paint a picture of how we face the truth and pursue a path to true reconciliation.”

Since graduating from law school at the University of Manitoba in 1979, Sinclair has been a fixture of Manitoba’s justice system. He began his legal journey as a lawyer representing Indigenous clients before being named associate chief judge of Manitoba’s Provincial Court and as a justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench. He was the first Indigenous judge appointed in Manitoba and the second in Canada.

In 2000, he was appointed to lead the Manitoba Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Inquest, a five-year inquest into the shocking deaths of 12 babies who underwent cardiac surgery in 1994 at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre. Sinclair’s report identified two culprits: systemic problems in the running of the hospital and the inexperienced surgeon.

Still, Sinclair’s greatest achievement was still to come. In 2009, he took over as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Under his guidance, the commission spent six years travelling the country, hearing from 6,000 witnesses to the devastating impact of Indian residential schools in Canada. In 2015, the commission released 94 calls to action for individuals, governments, school and university systems, libraries and museums, health-care systems, vital statistics agencies, sports organizations, businesses and churches to do their part to achieve reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

Sinclair retired from the bench in 2016 and was appointed to the Senate that same year.

After retiring from the Senate in early 2021, he returned to the practice of law and mentoring young lawyers.

Sinclair will receive an honorary degree, the university’s highest honour, at a later date due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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