Honorary degrees a highlight at UVic fall convocation

Human and Social Development, Law, Fine Arts

Almost 1,500 graduates will be awarded diplomas, degrees and certificates at UVic's fall convovation Nov. 13-14. Credit: UVic Photo Services

Four people noted for their remarkable achievements in social justice, early childhood education, sustainable agriculture and music will be recognized with honorary degrees at fall convocation Nov. 13-14 at the University of Victoria. 

Renowned social activist and Gitxsan First Nation member Cindy Blackstock, former BC lieutenant governor and sustainable farming proponent Judith Guichon, early childhood education leader Peter Moss, and acclaimed singer and teacher Mitsuko Shirai will all receive the university’s highest academic honour at fall convocation ceremonies. 

A total of 1,492 UVic students will be receiving degrees, diplomas and certificates at the November ceremonies.

Cindy Blackstock, Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD)

Tuesday, Nov. 13 | 10 a.m.

Cindy Blackstock is a social justice pioneer and dedicated advocate for Indigenous children with 30 years of social work experience in child protection and the rights of Indigenous children. She is a professor in McGill University’s School of Social Work and adjunct professor and director of the First Nations Children's Action Research and Education Centre at the University of Alberta. Blackstock also serves as executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. 

Blackstock and her advocacy group battled for years in front of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to demonstrate that First Nations children on reserve were receiving significantly less funding for public services compared to other children in Canada. In 2016, the tribunal decided in Blackstock’s favour and subsequently ordered the federal government to equitably fund First Nations child welfare. 

The case led to the implementation of Jordan's Principle, a child-first policy to ensure First Nations children receive public services when they need them. More than 111,000 services have since been provided to children in need under Jordan's Principle since the 2016 tribunal ruling.  

Blackstock’s promotion of culturally based equity for First Nations children and families, and engaging children in reconciliation, has been recognized by the Nobel Women's Initiative, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, and Frontline Defenders among others. An in-demand public speaker, she has authored more than 60 publications. Blackstock lives in Ottawa and is a commissioner with the Pan American Health Organization Commission on Health Equity and Inequity.

Judith Guichon, Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD)

Tuesday, Nov. 13 | 2:30 p.m. 

Judith Guichon is a strong voice for sustainable farming and ranching in British Columbia and the former lieutenant governor of BC. Before she began her six-year term as lieutenant governor in 2012, Guichon owned and operated Gerard Guichon Ranch Ltd. in the province’s Interior region. Guichon's family had owned land in the Nicola Valley since 1878 and maintained a tradition of farming, ranching and related community service. 

Guichon’s many contributions include serving as president of the British Columbia Cattlemen's Association. She has also served with the Provincial Force on Species at Risk, the Ranching Task Force of BC, the British Columbia Agri-Food Trade Advisory Council, the Fraser Basin Council of British Columbia, and as a director of the Grasslands Conservation Council of BC. She and her family have long promoted holistic farm management and an approach to farming that seeks to preserve ecosystems, maintain plant species, protect water quality and reduce use of fossil fuels. 

Guichon received the Order of BC in 2012. In her role as lieutenant governor, Guichon developed priority programs reflecting her background of stewardship, including the creation of Stewards of the Future, which aims to reconnect high school students with the natural world. Guichon lives in Quilchena, BC, near Merritt. 

Peter Moss, Honorary Doctor of Education (DEd)

Wednesday, Nov. 14 | 10 a.m. 

Peter Moss is professor emeritus at England’s University College London and recognized for his international work in early childhood education, in particular the relationship between employment, care and gender, with a special focus on parental leave policies. Moss coordinated the European Commission’s expert group on childcare and other measures to reconcile employment and family responsibilities. The breadth and quality of the group’s work resulted in more than 30 published reports and enhanced its international reputation. 

In 2004, Moss co-founded the International Network on Leave Policies and Research, which today brings together experts from 40 countries with a shared interest in a policy area that has since become a central issue in the modern welfare state. 

For a decade, Moss was co-editor of the book series Contesting Early Childhood, which provides an important platform for alternative voices and new ideas in the field of early childhood education. The series builds on previous work Moss had undertaken with Alan Pence in UVic’s School of Child and Youth Care, including the seminal book Beyond Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care

Moss has had a direct influence through his presentations and publications on the curricula of UVic’s School of Child and Youth Care, particularly its early-years stream. His ideas also influenced the British Columbia Early Learning Framework, which guides the provision of early childhood services in the province and is recognized internationally for its emphasis on diversity. He currently lives in London, England. 

Mitsuko Shirai, Honorary Doctor of Music (DMus)

Wednesday, Nov. 14 | 2:30 p.m. 

Mitsuko Shirai is regarded as one of the world's great interpreters of the German lied, a form of poetic art song that is set to classical music. She was born and raised in Japan and began her vocal studies there at the Musashino Music Academy in Tokyo. She received a grant to continue her training at the Hochschule der Künste in Stuttgart, Germany. 

Shirai is one of the most frequently recorded lieder singers of modern times. She is distinguished not only by her many stellar concert performances and recordings, but also by her illustrious teaching career. For more than 27 years, Shirai has taught at the Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe, one of Germany’s top professional music institutions, where she has attracted musicians from around the globe to study with her. She has conducted numerous workshops in Germany, Austria, Finland, the United States and Japan. Many of her students have gone on to become the bright lights of today's concert stages. 

The mezzo-soprano, who lives in Germany, has received many awards, medals and orders of merit for her extraordinary achievements. For example, her native Japan awarded her the “Shiju Hosho" (the Medal of Honour with Purple Ribbon), a distinction given to only five musicians over the past 50 years. In addition, she was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany) in 2010.

A press kit containing high-resolution photos of the honorary degree recipients is available on Dropbox. Photos have been supplied by the honorands.

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Media contacts

Ian Case (Director, Ceremonies and Events) at 250-721-7632 or iancase@uvic.ca

Jenny Manzer (Alumni Communications) at 250-721-7642 (cell) or alumcomm@uvic.ca

In this story

Keywords: convocation, honorary degrees, alumni

People: Cindy Blackstock, Mitsuko Shirai, Judith Guichon, Peter Moss

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