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Awards and recognition

SFU announces 2023 Honorary Degree recipients

March 15, 2023

Simon Fraser University will pay tribute to the accomplishments of distinguished individuals with honorary degrees—from the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economics, to the founder of Orange Shirt Day, along with celebrated artists, former politicians, and science and technology innovators—during 2023 spring and fall Convocation ceremonies.

SFU’s honorary degree is the highest honour conferred by the university. The degrees are awarded during convocation ceremonies in June and October, to distinguished individuals in recognition of their scholarly, scientific or artistic achievement, or exceptional contributions to the public good.

June honorary degree recipients:

Adelle Blackett is an acclaimed scholar, educator, advocate and international leader in human rights, trade law and labour rights, whose tireless work has advanced social justice. A law professor at McGill University who holds a Canada Research Chair in Transnational Labour Law and Development, she is helping to transform the narrative on anti-Black racism, as the principal drafter of the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education.

Canadian geoscientist Donald Dingwell is regarded as one of the world’s leading volcanologists. He is internationally known for his experiments on the physical properties of volcanic systems, including their kinetic processes and eruptions. Dingwell and his team have been pivotal in advancing what we know about the physiochemical properties of molten systems, and their influence on magmatic, volcanic and ore-forming processes.

barbara findlay K.C. describes herself as a fat old white cisgender queer lawyer with disabilities, raised working class and christian on the prairies. She has spent her life advocating for queer and trans people, doing unlearning racism and unlearning oppression work, and community organizing.  She says that all of her own social locations inform her work as an activist and an ally. 

Dany Laferrière is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and author who has been building his highly-praised body of work since 1985. The author of How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting TiredThe Return, which received the Prix Médicis and A Nomadic Heart (both written and drawn), Laferrière has been named Commander of the Legion of Honor, the highest order of merit in France, and joined the Académie française in 2013.

Joy MacPhail is a renowned leader and social advocate who served as Vancouver-Hastings MLA from 1991-2005, and made significant contributions to politics while tirelessly advocating for under-served and marginalized communities. In her multiple capacities as an economist, social activist, politician and entrepreneur, MacPhail has dedicated her life to promoting social justice and creating a better life for all British Columbians.

Svend Robinson is a well-known community leader, activist and lawyer who served as an NDP Member of Parliament (MP) representing Burnaby for more than 25 years (1979-2004)—one of the longest-elected MPs in Canadian history. The first openly gay member of Parliament, Robinson has been a long-standing human rights champion and feminist, often challenging the status quo while standing up for Indigenous rights, old-growth forests and the dying with dignity movement.

As a trailblazer, Zainub Verjee has built a formidable reputation as an artist, writer, critic, arts administrator and public intellectual in Canada and abroad. Through her work and scholarship, she has raised the level of cultural policy debate and discussion on arts in Canada and beyond. Verjee’s firm belief that art is a public good is rooted in the transformational power of arts and culture. Currently, she is the executive director of Galeries Ontario/Ontario Galleries—the voice of art galleries and art museums in Canada.

October honorary degree recipients:

Stan Douglas is one of Canada’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, lauded for his distinctive style of telling the stories of transitional periods through various mediums. His work is represented by the world’s top contemporary galleries and exhibitions, including the prestigious Venice Biennale, where he has represented Canada. Collectively his work reflects intellectual and artistic freedom, and pivotal moments in the history of particular spaces, using technologies to upset conventional modes of representation.

Dr. Esther Duflo is one of the world’s most highly accomplished economists—and the youngest recipient of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel—who has bettered countless lives through her mission of alleviating global poverty. Her commitment to addressing areas of health, education, financial inclusion, environment, and governance have led to policy change and real public good.

Elder Larry Grant (sʔəyəɬəq | 洪禮興) is a widely-respected educator and community leader of Musqueam and Chinese ancestry whose tireless efforts have played a key role in revitalizing Musqueam language, culture, and presence throughout Metro Vancouver. An adjunct professor in UBC’s First Nations Endangered Languages program and manager of the Musqueam Language and Culture Department, he has inspired countless generations to learn more about Indigenous histories, rights, and relations in Canada, including the history of First Nations and early Chinese migrants.

As founder of Orange Shirt Day, Phyllis Webstad, who is Northern Secwépemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xget’tem First Nation, has shared her personal story over the past decade, as a revered speaker and as an author of children’s books, facilitating dialogue by raising awareness of the Indian Residential School system and creating a space for healing. 

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