Grace MacInnis Visiting Scholar

Grace MacInnis (1905–1991), OC OBE, was the first woman from British Columbia to be elected to Parliament, and the only woman in Parliament from 1968 to 1972. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1974, among seven women to be granted the first Governor-General’s Persons Awards in 1979 for their work in advancing the status of Canadian women, honoured in 1982 by the Canadian Labour Congress with a sculpture and an award for Outstanding Service to Humanity, and was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 1990.

Political Advocacy

Past Visiting Scholars

More than awards and medals, MacInnis’ true legacy was her unfailing support of human rights issues, particularly women’s rights, both in Canadian Parliament and in her many roles as advocate and activist. As Rosemary Brown once said, “she was a very courageous person and I think that is what women got from her more than anything…that if you felt strongly about something you should speak up and you should speak loud.”

In honour of Grace MacInnis and her history of social and political service as a Member of Parliament for the New Democratic Party, a Grace MacInnis Visiting Scholar Program was initiated through the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University in 1993. The Visiting Scholars are invited to Simon Fraser University to give public talks, as well as meet with faculty and students.

2023: Micheal Vonn

Micheal Vonn is the Chief Executive Officer of PHS Community Services Society which provides supportive housing, healthcare and harm reduction for under-served people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Victoria. In 2003 PHS opened Insite, North America’s first legal supervised injection site. PHS is a leader in prescribed supply to combat the drug poisoning crisis and innovator in low-barrier service provision. Micheal is a lawyer. She was the Policy Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association for 15 years. She has been an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia in the Faculty of Law and the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies where she taught civil liberties and information ethics. Micheal has an extensive background in issues ranging from national security to freedom of expression. She has been a collaborator on Big Data Surveillance, a multi-year research project led by Queens University, an Advisory Board Member of Ryerson University’s Centre for Free Expression and an Advisory Board Member of Privacy International.

2020: Jody Wilson-Raybould

Jody Wilson-Raybould, PC, OBC, KC, is a lawyer, advocate, and leader among British Columbia’s First Nations. Prior to entering politics, she was a provincial crown prosecutor in Vancouver and later served as an advisor at the BC Treaty Commission, a body established to oversee complex treaty negotiations between First Nations and the Crown. An active volunteer in her community, Ms. Wilson-Raybould has served as a Director for Capilano College, the Minerva Foundation for B.C. Women, the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre, and the National Centre for First Nations Governance. She was also a director on the First Nations Lands Advisory Board and Chair of the First Nations Finance Authority. As the 2020 MacInnis Visiting Scholar, she gave a talk via Zoom on "Moving Slow While Urgent Change is Needed: Why Governments Struggle to Effect True Reconciliation."

2019: Marie Wilson

Marie Wilson, CM, ONWT, MSC, is a Commissioner of the historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2009–2015) and an award-winning journalist. Fluently bilingual in French and English, she has served as 2016 Professor of Practice at McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development and Mentor for the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation. Ms. Wilson currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC-Radio-Canada) and the Rideau Hall Foundation, and holds honorary degrees from six Canadian universities. In additional to several professional awards, she is the recipient of the Order of the Northwest Territories, the Order of Canada, and the Meritorious Service Cross. She was invited to SFU in September 2019 to give a public lecture on "Reconciliation in Canada: A Non-Partisan Affair."

2018: Ratna Omidvar

Ratna Omidvar, CM, OOnt, is an internationally recognized voice on migration, diversity, and inclusion. In April 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed her to the Senate of Canada as an independent Senator representing Ontario. Senator Omidvar is the founding Executive Director at Ryerson University's Global Diversity Exchange (GDX), a think-and-do tank on diversity, migration, and inclusion that connects local experience and ideas with global networks. She was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2005 and became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2011, with both honours recognizing her advocacy work on behalf of immigrants and devotion to reducing inequality in Canada. In 2014, she received the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of German-Canadian relations. As the Visiting Scholar, she gave a lecture on "The Rise of Populism: How We Can Stem the Tide."

2016: Gail Davidson

Gail Davidson is a retired lawyer whose work is devoted to promoting global adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law through advocacy, education, and research. She is the founder and member of the Board of Directors of Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), a committee of Canadian lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law by providing international support to human rights defenders in danger. She received the UBC Great Trekker award (2014) for her work promoting human rights and work with UBC students and a Courage in Law award (2013) from the UBC Indigenous Law Students Association for her contributions to education and advocacy about First Nations’ rights. In September 2016, she gave a public lecture on "Canada and the UN Convention Against Torture" as the Visiting Scholar.

2015: Libby Davies

Libby Davies is a British-born Canadian politician from BC who was elected as the Member of Parliament for Vancouver East for six terms. As an MP, Libby consistently raised issues of concern to her constituents in Parliament, including community safety, adequate childcare, and post-secondary education. Libby was also a tireless advocate in Parliament for a national housing program, and successfully forced federal governments to address this basic human right. In recognition of her lifelong dedication and service to public life, Libby was invited to SFU in September 2015 to give a lecture about her experience in politics. Her talk, titled "Grassroots Politics in Parliament," occurred a month before the Canadian federal election and explored the connections and challenges of grassroots political activism and how that translates into a Parliamentary environment that is slow, bureaucratic, and resistant to change.

2009: Jean Barman

Jean Barman is a historian of British Columbia and Professor Emerita at UBC, where she taught cultural studies, history of education, and Indigenous studies in the Department of Educational Studies. She has written extensively on British Columbian, Canadian, and Indigenous history, and has received the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for historical writing and the 2006 City of Vancouver Book Award for Stanley Park’s Secret (2005). In October 2009, she was invited to SFU as the Visiting Scholar and gave a public lecture, titled “Taking Everyday People Seriously: How French Canadians Saved British Columbia for Canada." Since then, she has authored French Canadians, Furs, and Indigenous Women in the Making of the Pacific Northwest (2014). She has also received the 2014 George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for her “enduring contribution to society” and “outstanding literary career.”

2006: Linda McQuaig

Linda McQuaig is a Canadian journalist, best-selling author, and longtime activist who has devoted her career to fighting against income inequality, the dismantling of social programs, and inaction on climate change. As the winner of a National Newspaper Award for uncovering the Patti Starr affair in 1989, she has written for The Globe and MailMaclean’s magazine, and Conrad Black’s former publication, The National Post. In February 2006, McQuaig came to SFU as the Visiting Scholar and gave lectures on “Resurrecting the Notion of the Common Good” at both the Burnaby and Vancouver campuses. She now writes a weekly political column for the Toronto Star and contributes regularly to CBC Radio. Her most recent books include Billionaires’ Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality (2012) and The Sport & Prey of Capitalists: How the Rich are Stealing Canada’s Public Wealth (2019).

2003: Elaine Bernard

Elaine Bernard is the Executive Director of the Labour and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and a prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Though her research and teaching interests are widespread and varied, her writings often focus on women in the labour force and workers in the telecommunications industry. During her stay as the Visiting Scholar in Fall 2003, she discussed issues surrounding labour rights as human rights at the "Seeking Justice: Human Rights in Our Communities Symposium" at SFU, Harbour Centre. Her publications since her stay at SFU include “Human Right or Canadian Illusion: Collective Bargaining in Canada” (2005) and “The State of US Labour & Building Union Power” (2008).

2002: Myrna Kostash

Myrna Kostash is an acclaimed writer of Ukrainian descent who has published seven acclaimed books of literary nonfiction and two anthologies, as well as numerous essays and articles, radio documentaries, and playscripts. Kostash is a recipient of the Alberta Achievement Award and of the Alberta Council of Ukrainian Arts “Excellence in Artistry” Award, the Canadian Conference of the Arts Honorary Life Member award, the Queen’s Jubilee Award, the Alberta Centennial Medal, the City of Edmonton’s 2006 Citation Award, “Salute to Excellence,” and the Writers Guild of Alberta Golden Pen Award for lifetime achievement. She was also inducted into the City of Edmonton’s Hall of Fame in 2009. As Visiting Scholar, she spoke at both Simon Fraser University and at the Vancouver Public Library.

1997: Lynn McDonald

Lynn McDonald, CM, is a distinguished Canadian academic and climate activist who served as president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and the New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Parliament from 1982 to 1988. McDonald was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015 and elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2019, and currently Professor Emerita of Sociology at the University of Guelph. As the 1997 Visiting Scholar, she gave a lecture on Florence Nightingale and the origins of public health care to a Department of History class and met with students in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies.

1995: Joy Kogawa

Joy Kogawa, CM, OBC, is a Canadian poet and novelist of Japanese descent. Kogawa was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1986 and Member of the Order of British Columbia in 2006. In 2010, the Japanese government honoured Kogawa with the Order of the Rising Sun "for her contribution to the understanding and preservation of Japanese Canadian history." In recognition of her literary achievements and the intensity with which she has spoken out against injustice and her contribution toward the Canadian Governments' steps to provide redress to Japanese Canadians in 1988, Kogawa was named the 1995 Grace MacInnis Visiting Scholar and invited to SFU to respond to a panel discussion on her novel Obasan and give a public reading of her work.

1993: Shirley Williams

Shirley Williams (1930–2021), Baroness Williams of Crosby, CH, PC, was a British politician and academic who co-founded the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981 and served as its President from 1982 to 1987. Williams was made an Honorary Fellow of her alma mater, Somerville College, Oxford, in 1970, and of Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1977. She remained an active member of the House of Lords until announcing her retirement in January 2016, and was a Professor Emerita of Electoral Politics at Harvard Kennedy School at the time of her death at age 90, having been one of the last surviving members of the Labour governments of the 1970s. As the first visiting scholar in this program in 1993, Williams gave a series of public talks related to social democracy and the future at SFU's Burnaby Mountain and Harbour Centre campuses.