On Monday afternoon we held the convocation ceremony for the 2017 University of Calgary graduates in Medicine, Law, Nursing and Veterinary Medicine. In addition to celebrating our new graduates, we also awarded Jo-Ann Munn Gafuik (a longtime and stalwart staff member of our university) with the Order of the University of Calgary and Senator Murray Sinclair with the honorary degree Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa.
We conferred the honorary doctorate on Murray Sinclair in recognition of his great service in chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and in giving voice to people from whom most Canadians had never heard. Our university community has respect for Murray’s style of steady, diplomatic and dignified leadership as well as his life’s work.
Professor Patrick Finn, one of our university Orators, delivered the citation for today’s honorary degree recipient. I asked Patrick if I could include his remarks about Dr. Sinclair in today’s blog entry. These are the beautiful and fitting words that he composed:
The giving of names is a powerful practice found in all times and places. Names tell the story of our walk on this sacred ground, the ground of Treaty 7, of Canada, and of Turtle Island. To name this person we say: “The Honourable Senator Murray Sinclair.” To name this person we say in Ojibway: “Mizanay Gheezhik,” meaning, “the one who speaks of pictures in the sky.” But this honouree has travelled with many names: athlete of the year, valedictorian, cadet, lawyer, justice, doctor, husband, father, friend, elder… and senator. To name the place where we honour him we say, “The University of Calgary.” To name this place we say: Mo shuile togam suas: in Gaelic, “I will lift up mine eyes.” And today we lift up our eyes to the one who speaks of pictures in the sky.
We practice here an ancient ritual, cataloguing the journey the recipient has walked. Murray Sinclair, Mizanay Gheezhik, has walked a path over such great distances, and in so many directions, we could speak for days.
Consider the eyes and feet of this man. His eyes have shared pictures from the sky: of justice, reconciliation, of our past, present, and future. His feet, when young, moved so swiftly he left us behind, then slowed so we could join, walking the land, and walking our shared and deeply complicated history. He has walked with others in honour of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which his eyes oversaw. And walking together with those hard truths, he again ventured ahead, delivering a Report filled with stories that need to be told, heard, and honoured. Most memorably, he said, “Reconciliation is about forging and maintaining respectful relationships. There are no shortcuts.”
Eminent Chancellor, I present to you Mizanay Gheezhik, The Honourable Senator Murray Sinclair, whose work in the study and practice of law has lifted up the lives of neglected children, of those whose voices are unheard, and of the very conscience of this land and its people. His professional attributes are of the highest order, but are outpaced by a lifetime of contributions to social justice, built from his ability to see pictures in the sky, and the fortitude needed to walk the hard road on a quest for genuine change. He arrives here today, a man who has taken no shortcuts. On behalf of the Senate, and the University of Calgary, I invite you to invest him with the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.