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- 40th Anniversary
Thakore Visiting Scholar
The name and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi has been honoured at Simon Fraser University (SFU) since the unveiling of his memorial bust in the Simon Fraser Peace Square in 1970. In 1991, the Gandhi Jayanti celebration, an annual event on Gandhi's birthday (October 2) that brings members of the local Indo-Canadian community together with others who wish to salute his memory and honour his ideals, expanded to include the Thakore Visiting Scholar Award. Sponsored jointly by the Thakore Charitable Foundation, Institute for the Humanities, and J. S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities, this annual award honours individuals who have devoted their lives to “creativity, commitment, and a deep concern for truth in public life, which includes but is not limited to, showing the connection between academic values and critical public spirit.”
Past Visiting Scholars
Each year, a remarkable individual (or organization) whose life and work embodies the principles of social justice, equality, non-violence, environmental conservation, conflict resolution, and world peace, is honoured at SFU with the Thakore Visiting Scholar Award. The recipient participates in the annual jayanti celebration at SFU Burnaby and gives a public lecutre at the Institute for the Humanities, located at SFU Harbour Centre.
SFU350 is a student-led group dedicated to engaging the university in climate justice and while recent victories have been encouraging, the group is eager to continue striving for greater changes. Operating on the unceded territories of the səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations, on which SFU Burnaby is located, SFU350 has been active since 2013 and is known as “SFU350” because 350ppm of CO2 represents the safe amount of carbon dioxide for our atmosphere––currently, we sit at over 400ppm of CO2. The group is dedicated to creating meaningful impacts through various campaigns. By directly lobbying those in positions of power, SFU350 has generated impetus for positive change at the highest level. The club ensures equity, sustainability, and Indigenous sovereignty are centered in all campaigns and has a dedicated working group active with the express purpose of advocating for climate justice.
2021: David Suzuki
David Suzuki, CC, OBC, FRSC, is a Canadian academic, science broadcaster, and environmental activist who co-founded (with Tara Cullis) the David Suzuki Foundation, a science-based non-profit environmental organization that prioritizes oceans and sustainable fishing, climate change and clean energy, sustainability, and Suzuki's Nature Challenge. Suzuki was also a professor in the Department of Zoology at UBC from 1963 until his retirement in 2001; and is best known as host and narrator of the popular and long-running CBC Television science program The Nature of Things, seen in over 40 countries. He is a recipient of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science (1986) and appointee to the Order of Canada (first as an Officer in 1976, then promoted to Companion in 2006) and Order of British Columnia (1995). His many awards and honours include the International Human Rights Award in 2007, the honorary Right Livelihood Award in 2009, and City of Vancouver's Freedom of the City Award in 2015; and honorary doctorates from over two dozen universities around the world, including Governors State Univeristy in 1986, Griffith University in 1997, and Flinders University in 2005.
2019: Raffi Cavoukian
Raffi Cavoukian, CM, OBC, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, ecology advocate, entrepreneur, author, and children’s champion of Armenian descent. Known professionally by the mononym "Raffi," Cavoukian is a platinum-selling artist who brought music to millions of children, most notably "Baby Beluga." Respect for the child as a whole person was always at the heart of Raffi’s music career. After decades of inquiry into what children need to thrive, he founded the Raffi Foundation for Child Honouring, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to advancing Child Honouring as a universal ethic, an organizing principle for societal transformation. For his work and dedication, he was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1983 and the Order of British Columbia in 2001, inducted into the British Columbia Hall of Fame in 2005, and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. He also received four honorary doctorates from Vancouver Island University, Wilfrid Laurier University, UBC, and UVic.
2018: Jean Augustine
Jean Augustine, PC, CM, OOnt, CBE, is a Grenada-born Canadian politician, energetic advocate of social justice, and the first African-Canadian woman to be elected to the House of Commons, serving four consecutive terms as a Liberal member from 1993–2006. Before entering politics, she was an elementary school principal and was Chair of the Board of the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority. Among her accomplishments as an MP was the introduction of a motion, passed unanimously, to have February proclaimed as Black History Month in Canada. Throughout her career, Augustine has supported many social causes through her involvement in boards such as that of The Hospital for Sick Children and her role as the National President of the Congress of Black Women of Canada. In recognition of her achievements, Augustine was inducted as Member of the Order of Canada in 2009 and was awarded many distinctions, including the Canadian Black Achievement Award in 1994 and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. She also holds honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto, McGill University, York University, Trent University, Guelph University, Winsor University, and Ryerson.
2017: John Volken
John Volken is a German-Canadian businessman, philanthropist, and Founder of The John Volken Foundation who emigrated to Canada in 1960 at the age of 18. Volken's Foundation funds several nonprofit enterprises, including John Volken Academy, designed to help young men and women to overcome drug and alcohol addictions, learn healthy life skills, build character, and advance their education, and Lift The Children, a charity that sponsors orphanages in Africa (most of them in Kenya and Uganda) with the basic necessities while working to integrate them into family or community based care. He is also the Founder and former CEO of United Furniture Warehouse, having sold the business in 2004 and transferring all the proceeds and assets (at a combined value of over $150 million) into charitable foundations in Canada and the United States in order to fulfill his dream of helping those in need. For his accomplishments and philanthropy, John has received many awards, including the Entrepreneur of the Year for Canada’s Pacific Region in 1995 and the Dalai Lama Humanitarian Award in 2015 for effectively changing lives, as well as an audience with Pope Francis in 2021.
2016: Judy Graves
Judy Graves is a tireless advocate of those marginalized by homelessness whose 33-year career with the City of Vancouver has brought about meaningful change to the delivery of social welfare in the province. She formed the Vancouver Homeless Outreach Project in 2005 and was able to help the homeless navigate bureaucracy and find affordable long-term accommodations. Graves also lent her expertise to various organizations throughout the province to help establish similar outreach programs and within four years, she and others have helped close to 5000 homeless people living in 48 communities throughout the province find affordable housing. For her work and dedication, she has received honorary doctorates from UBC in 2009, Vancouver School of Theology in 2013, and SFU in 2015. She was also presented with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and the Freedom of the City Award in 2014. Though retired, Graves continues to have a direct and lasting impact on the lives of homeless people in Vancouver, helping to restore hope to those without safe and secure housing.
2015: Jennifer Allen Simons
Jennifer Allen Simons, CM, LLD, is an award-winning educator, thought leader, nuclear disarmament specialist, and Founder and President of The Simons Foundation Canada who pioneered research, advocacy, and action in advancing nuclear disarmament, peace, human rights, and global co-operation. She is also a Founding Partner of Global Zero, an international initiative of 300 world leaders dedicated to achieving the phased, verified elimination of nuclear weapons; and serves as Senior Fellow and Dialogue Associate at the SFU Centre for Dialogue and Adjunct Professor at the SFU School for International Studies. Simons was awarded the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 for her service to the global effort to eradicate landmines, honoured by SFU and the Alumni Association with an Outstanding Alumni Award in 2009 for her Service to the Community, and appointed to the Order of Canada in 2010 for her contributions to the promotion of peace and disarmament, as well as received honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Northern British Columbia in 2001 and from SFU in 2015.
2013: Lee Lakeman
Lee Lakeman is a writer, feminist, activist, and former staff member of the Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter (VRRWS). Since the 1970s, she has been advocating for women rights and the end of violence against women, including women living in poverty, the status of migrant workers, the Conservative government’s prostitution legislation, missing and murdered women, pipelines and the environment, the safety of women on school campuses, and spousal abuse; and was instrumental in helping the VRRWS open a transition house in 1981. In 1995, she also served as a special advisor to Canada’s Federal Minister of Justice as part of the Canadian delegation to the Ninth United Nations Conference on Crime Prevention and Treatment of the Offender. In recognition of her extraordinary service and her unyielding pursuit of the social, economic, and legal equality for women, she was given an honorary Doctor of Laws by UBC in 2013. Though retired from the VRRWS since 2013, Lakeman remains a women’s equality activist.
2012: Jim Green (Posthumous)
Jim Green (1943–2012) was an American-Canadian longshoreman, taxicab driver, community activist, non-profit housing developer, municipal politician, university instructor, and development consultant. During his lifetime, he advocated for a continuous expansion of social justice, inclusion, democracy, and the arts as the foundation of a successful, prosperous city. Through his work, Green empowered the marginalized, first as a union shop steward, then as an organizer for the Downtown Eastside Residents Association, mobilizing the community to demand decent housing in Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood. In recognition of his many accomplishments, which continue to serve as a model for cities across Canada, Green was honoured with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM) Roll of Honour Award; and a day before his death in 2012, he was granted the Freedom of the City Award, the highest award given by the City of Vancouver.
2011: John O’Brian
John O’Brian, FRSC, is an art historian, writer, and curator best known for his books on modern art, including Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism (1986), and his exhibitions on nuclear photography, such as Camera Atomica (2015), the first comprehensive exhibition on postwar nuclear photography organized for the Art Gallery of Ontario. He is also Professor Emertius of art history at the University of British Columbia, where he taught for thirty years (1987–2017), held the Brenda & David McLean Chair in Canadian Studies (2008–2011), and was an Associate of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. O'Brian was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2009, granted an honorary doctorate from Trinity College at the University of Toronto in 2011, inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame at the University of Toronto in 2016, and received the Universities Art Association of Canada Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
2010: Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley
Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley are distinguished authors and teachers whose books on peacemaking and nonviolence include South Africa Without Apartheid. Dismantling Racial Domination (1986), The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (1993), Comrades in Business: Post-Liberation Politics in South Africa (1998), and Seeking Mandela: Peacemaking Between Israelis and Palestinians (2005). Heribert Adam, FRSC, is a German-Canadian university professor and author of political sociology, specializing in human rights, comparative racisms, peace studies, Southern Africa, and ethnic conflict. Kogila Moodley is a published academic and sociologist who specializes in multiculturalism, anti-racism, and ethnic and race relations. Moodley also researches Canadian educational and immigration policy, and political and economic developments in South Africa and the Middle East.
2009: Ela Bhatt
Ela Bhatt (1933–2022) was an Indian lawyer, cooperative organiser, activist, and Gandhian who founded the Self-Employed Women's Association of India (SEWA), a trade union representing self-employed female textile workers in India, in 1972, and served its secretary-general until her retirement in 1996. In 1979, Bhatt also cofounded (with Esther Ocloo and Michaela Walsh) the Women’s World Banking (WWB), a global network of microfinance organizations that assist poor women, and served as its chairperson from 1984–1988. For her part in the international labour, cooperative, women, and micro-finance movements, she's been granted honorary doctorates from five universities, including Harvard University, Yale, and Université libre de Bruxelles in Brussels, Belgium; and received numerous awards and honours, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1977, civilian honour of Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1985, and the Radcliffe Medal and Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development in 2011.
2008: Free the Children
WE Charity Foundation, formerly Free the Children and WE Charity, is an international development charity and youth empowerment movement founded in 1995 by human rights advocates Marc and Craig Kielburger. The organization implemented development programs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, focusing on education, water, health, food, and economic opportunity. It also runs domestic programming for young people in Canada, the US, and UK, promoting corporate-sponsored service learning and active citizenship.
2007: Dr. James Pau
Dr. James Pau is a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, nurse of western medicine, humanitarian, and SFU alumnus who has provided free and unlimited treatment to the homeless, seniors, the disadvantaged, and people with addictions, as well as those with hepatitis and HIV/AIDS in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Pau immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong in 1975 and was one of the first to have traditional Chinese medicine regulated under the Health Profession Act of B.C. Shortly after his arrival, Pau immersed himself in his new community and became a member of the board of the Carnagie Community Centre, co-founder of the North American Buddhist Friendship Order, and founder of the HIV/IDU Services Consumers Board, which runs a needle exchange program. For his compassion and selfless dedication to health services, he earned the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers by The Governor General of Canada in 2008, and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from SFU in 2022.
2006: Roy Miki
Roy Miki, CM, OBC, FRSC, is a Canadian poet, scholar, editor, and activist whose critical and creative work explores identity, place, and citizenship through the lenses of anti-racist theory, cultural studies, innovative poetics, and Asian Canadian cultural production. He was active in the 1980s Redress Movement, which centered around gaining equity and recognition for Japanese Canadians uprooted during WWII, and coauthored, with Cassandra Kobayashi, Justice in Our Time: The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement (1991), a book documenting the success of the movement. Miki's book of poetry, Surrender, won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry in 2002; and in 2006, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada, received the 20th annual Gandhi Peace Award for the truth, justice, human rights, and non-violence exemplified in his redress work, and awarded the Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy. He was also made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2007 and Member of the Order of British Columbia in 2009.
2005: Michael Clague
Michael Clague, CM, is a writer and teacher who works in the fields of adult education, community development, and social policy and planning. Clague has also served as Director of the Carnegie Community Centre, Director of Programs for SPARC BC, Executive Director of SPARC BC, Executive Director of the Community Council of Greater Victoria, and the first Executive Director of the Britannia Community Services Centre. Throughout his career, Clague has tried to express his work through praxis, the balancing of reflection and engagement. He has an avid interest in the arts in the quest for understanding meaning and purpose in the human journey, to celebrate life, and to cope with the terrible things we can do to one another. For his efforts to improve the lives of society's most disadvantaged members, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2007. Since his retirement in 2005, he has continued his work as a volunteer and consultant in community development.
2004: Marilyn Gullison
Marilyn Gullison is a nursing educator and administrator, former B.C. representative for Operation Eyesight Universal (with special interest in the work in India), and founding Director and key volunteer of HUGGS Canada. Gullison was brought up in a town along the Bay of Bengal, and in her childhood often visited the city of Vizag, which later became the centre for HUGGS Canada. After completing her nursing degree at Acadia University, she returned to India to teach in Darjeeling, located at the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, and became involved with Operation Eyesight Universal, an international development organization working to prevent blindness and restore sight, and HUGGS Canada, a program whose mission is to provide underprivileged students in India with the opportunity to further their education, enabling them to contribute more effectively to their families and communities. She is currently part of the Board of Directors for HUGGS Canada and is responsible for its governance, strategic direction, and management.
2003: Dr. Samantha Nutt and Dr. Eric Hoskins
Dr. Samantha Nutt, CM, OOnt, and Dr. Eric Hoskins, OC, MSC, are Canadian physicians, philanthropist, and founders of War Child Canada, a charitable, non-governmental organization that works to raise funds for relief and development programs in support of war-affected children around the world. Since its founding in 1999, the organization has grown to reach over 600,000 people annually worldwide, with each of its initiatives rooted in local, community-driven programs. As its founders, Nutt worked with children and their families on the front-line of many crises including Iraq, Afghanistan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Darfur, South Sudan, Burundi, northern Uganda, Ethiopia, and the Thai-Burmese border; and Hoskins lived and worked in Sudan to provide humanitarian relief to Ethiopian refugees in eastern Sudan and displaced civilians in southern Sudan, and led a group of international experts to examine the impact of war on the civilian population in Iraq.
2002: James Lawson
James Lawson is an American minister, activist, and university professor who, while in India, studied Gandhi’s use of nonviolent resistance to achieve social and political change within the civil rights movement in the United States. He taught nonviolent protest techniques and trained many of the future leaders of the civil rights movement, including Diane Nash, James Bevel, Bernard Lafayette, Marion Barry, and John Lewis. He later served as a pastor in Los Angeles for 25 years (1974–1999) after being expelled in 1960 from Vanderbilt University for his civil rights activism, more specifically his involvement with Nashville’s desegregation movement. While in LA, he was active in the labour movement, the American Civil Liberties Union, and movements for reproductive choice and gay rights.
2001: Lloyd Axworthy
Lloyd Axworthy, PC, CC, OM, is a Canadian politician, academic, and former President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winnipeg (2004–2014) who became internationally known for his advancement of the human security through the Ottawa Treaty, a landmark global treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. His 27-year political career included six years in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly and 21 years in the Federal Parliament, where he held several Cabinet positions, most notably Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1996–2000. For his leadership on landmines, Axworthy was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, presented with honorary doctorates from 12 universities, and promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2015.
2000: Medha Patkar
Medha Patkar is an Indian social activist, human rights advocate, and former politician who based her campaigns on two basic tenets in the Indian constitution: the rights to life and livelihood. Born to socially active parents, Patkar earned a MA in social work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, a premier institute of social science research in India, in the early 1980s and worked on various crucial political and economic issues raised by tribals, dalits, farmers, labourers, and women facing injustice in India. She has received numerous international awards and honours, including Sweden's Right Livelihood Award in 1991, the British Broadcasting Corporation's Green Ribbon Award for Best International Political Campaigner in 1995, and Amnesty International - Germany's Human Rights Defender's Award in 1999.
1999: Thomas Berger
Thomas Berger (1933–2021), QC, OC, OBC, was a Canadian politician and jurist who specialized in criminal law, labour law, and general civil litigation. He also served as a Member of Parliament for the BC NDP in 1961/62 and Member of the Legislative Assembly of BC from 1966–1969. Berger was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia at the age of 38 in 1972 (the youngest appointment in a century) but resigned in 1983 after speaking out to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Constitution. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1989, received the Order of British Columbia in 2004, and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
1998: Marta de la Vega Torres
Marta de la Vega Torres is an exiled Guatemalan labour advocate, peace and human rights activist, and staff member of the Ecumenical Task Force for Justice in the Americas (formerly Christian Task Force on Central America). She has been a legal advisor to the Coca-Cola workers union in Guatemala since the 70s and continued to work internationally on their behalf when she was forced into exile in the early 80s.
1997: Dr. Mary-Wynne Ashford
Mary-Wynne Ashford (1939–2022), MD, PhD, was a retired Family and Palliative Care Physician and Associate Professor at the University of Victoria who believed that advocating for peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons was part of a doctor's "duty of care." For nearly 40 years, she devoted her life to, wrote about, and spoke internationally on peace and disarmament. From 1988–1990, she was president of the Canadian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War; and from 1998–2002, she was co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. For her work, she was awarded the Queen’s Medal on two occasions, Gandhi Prize in 1997, Award of Excellence from Doctors of BC in 2019, and Distinguished Achievement Award (Dr. Jonathan Down) from the Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention in 2019.
1996: George McRobie
George McRobie (1926–2016) was the cofounder (with famed German-British economist E. F. Schumacher) and former chairman (upon Schumacher's death in 1977) of Practical Action (formerly the Intermediate Technology Development Group), honorary vice-president of the Soil Association, and founding member of the New Economics Foundation and The Other Economic Summit. His work with Practical Action, a UK-based NGO specializing in creating small-scale technology for developing countries, and completion of Small Is Possible (1981), the last of Schumacher's trilogy, cemented his immense contribution to both the green and appropriate technology movements.
1995: Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese politician, author, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1991), and former State Counsellor of Myanmar (2016–2021). In 1988, she cofounded the National League for Democracy that won 81 percent of the parliamentary seats in the 1990 election, which was ignored by the military government at the time and officially annulled in 2010. While under house arrest from 1989 to 2010, Suu Kyi received numerous awards and honours, including the Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia in 1996, Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000, and Olof Palme Prize in 2005. From 2016 to 2021, she held multiple governmental posts, and she and her administration received international condemnation over their response to the treatment of the Muslim people of Myanmar's Rakhine state, which resulted in several organizations revoking her human rights-related honours and awards. In February 2021, she was removed from power and arrested when a coup d'état returned power to the military.
1994: Ursula Franklin
Ursula Franklin (1921–2016), CC, OOnt, FRSC, was a German-Canadian metallurgist, research physicist, author, feminist, social activist, and educator who taught for over 40 years at the University of Toronto, where she became the first woman to be honoured with the title of "University Professor" in 1984. For her innovative scientific and humanitarian work, she has received many awards and honours, including the Wiegand Award for Canadian Exellence in 1989, Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case in 1991, Pearson Peace Medal in 2002, and Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in 2012. Franklin was also named Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1988, appointed Order of Ontario in 1990, and promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 1992. In 1995, the Toronto Board of Education opened a new high school in her honour and named it the Ursula Franklin Academy.
1993: Ovide Mercredi
Ovide Mercredi, OC, OM, is a First Nations leader and former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada (1991–1997). Mercredi, who is of Cree descent, is a leading advocate for Indigenous peoples' rights and was involved with the Cree of Northern Quebec in their efforts to stop the Great Whale hydroelectric project. Influenced by Gandhi, Mercredi took a path of civil disobedience and passive resistance in his stance against the use of violence. For his advocacy of non-violence, he was nominated by the Government of India for the Gandhi Peace Prize. Mercredi has also received honorary law degrees from Saint Mary's University, Cape Breton University, and Bishop's University, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Athabasca University.
1992: Douglas Roche
Douglas Roche, OC, is a former Canadian Senator, author, parliamentarian, and diplomat, who has specialized throughout his 40-year public career in peace and human security issues and lectured widely on themes of peace and nuclear disarmament. He is also Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Middle Powers Initiative, an international network of eight international non-governmental organizations specializing in nuclear disarmament issues. Mr. Roche holds nine honourary doctorates from Canadian and American universities and has received numerous awards for his work for peace and non-violence, including the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation for World Peace Award (Canada) and the United Nations Association's Medal of Honour.
1991: Edward Broadbent
Ed Broadbent, OC, CC, was first elected to Parliament in 1968 and served as an MP for 21 years, 14 of which were spent as leader of the New Democratic Party. During his time in Ottawa, his focus was on Aboriginal and economic rights, women’s equality, child poverty, ethics in government, and tax equality. In 1993, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and was promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2001 for his tireless advocacy of policies in aid of disadvantaged persons around the world. He also has a PhD in Political Theory, taught at several prestigious universities, and founded the Broadbent Institute in 2011 to promote "change through excellent research and analysis, educating and supporting a new generation of leaders, and the publication of innovative journalism."