media release

First Nations fine-arts student wins recognition

November 20, 2013

Cherry Smiley, 778.886.8839,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


Simon Fraser University graduate student Cherry Smiley, a self-described radical feminist, prostitution abolitionist and activist, has won a Governor General’s award.

A First Nations graduate student in SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Smiley is one of five Canadians to receive a 2013 Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case.

She is one of two youth recipients.

The award celebrates the five women whose work led to the historic legal decision to have the word “person” declared to include both women and men. It recognizes individuals who have shown similar courage and determination to significantly advance equality for women and girls in Canada.

Smiley is a frequent speaker on issues of violence against, and equality for, Aboriginal women and girls and on prostitution. She has spoken throughout Canada, in New York City and in Norway.

During the past five years, Smiley has worked with Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter. She volunteered with the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network until 2011.

In 2012 she co-facilitated the Sisterwork program in Vancouver at the Urban Native Youth Association to engage young Aboriginal women and girls in discussing violence, creating art and giving presentations to local communities.

Last year she co-founded Indigenous Women Against the Sex industry, a volunteer group working to educate the public about prostitution as an expression of colonialism and male violence. The group is also advocating for progressive social policies that will abolish prostitution.

“My activism and art aren’t separate,” says Smiley, who is primarily a photographer but also incorporates video, sound and text into her art projects.

The award, says Smiley, “is a recognition not only of my work but of other women, girls and organizations that are working for a similar goal—equality.”

She’s hopeful that the award will give a platform to further her causes.

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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