Mavis Gillie receives Honorary Doctorate of Laws

Mavis Gillie, who with the support of UVic Law received an honorary degree on March 9th, 2016, has worked for Indigenous rights and title since the 1970s. The list of her activities in the NWT and BC includes campaigning with Project North, the Aboriginal Rights Coalition, and Aboriginal Neighbours; supporting Nisga’a opposition to the dumping of tailings from the Amax molybdenum mine into the Nass River and Tsawout opposition to the development of a marina on Saanichton Bay; and supporting the Gitxsan and Wetsuwet’en Run for Justice to raise money for the Delgamuukw case.  Chief Hanamuxw of the Gitxsan, whose talking stick is housed in the Law Library, has said that Mavis “spoke like one of our chiefs.”

She made submissions to the RCAP in 1992 and to legislative committees on the proposed Nisga’a Treaty and the 2001 Treaty Referendum. She has supported the Tsilhqot’in in their opposition to the Prosperity Mine, the Tseycum in their efforts to repatriate ancestral remains, the Haida with respect to the Cinola Mine proposal and the Nuu-chah-nulth regarding the Meares Island injunction. Described by Mavis Underwood as “a force of nature,” Mavis Gillie was also indefatigable in her support for the Nisga’a Treaty.

Andrew Petter, a former UVic Law dean who is now SFU president has said: “As someone who in my capacities as an MLA and a cabinet minister was a target of [Mavis’] efforts in the 1990s, I can attest first hand to the depth of her commitment, the effectiveness of her advocacy, and the extent of her impact.”  

The above is only a fraction of what Mavis has done over the years. But let the last word go to Alex Rose, author of Spirit Dance at Meziadin: Joseph Gosnell and the Nisga’a Treaty. In his chapter on those associated with the Nisga’a he speaks of “social reformers driven by an enlightened notion of good works.” And next to a photo of Mavis being greeted by the Nisga’a there is this:

In Victoria, Anglican parishioner Mavis Gillie was a tireless advocate for the Nisga’a cause for more than 25 years. On her own initiative, she wrote letters to the editors and prowled the halls of the legislature where, meeting and greeting politicians and their senior bureaucrats, she would hand out the latest public relations missive. A volunteer foot soldier in the Nisga’a struggle, she neither expected or received financial remuneration for her efforts.

A tireless, volunteer soldier in the struggle for justice. Congratulations Dr. Gillie.

Mavis Gillie