2015 Fredericton Encaenia - Ceremony D

Nicholas, Graydon

Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)

Orator: Kealey, Linda


to be Doctor of Laws

Graydon Nicholas is a man of many firsts: first Aboriginal person to receive a law degree in Atlantic Canada (1971); first Aboriginal person in New Brunswick to become a provincial court judge (1991); and first Aboriginal Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick (2009). His legal career involved him in a number of important cases related to Aboriginal rights, including the Donald Marshall, Jr. case and a New Brunswick Court of Appeal case in the mid 1980s that demonstrated that treaty rights still existed for Aboriginal people in the province. Graydon Nicholas has served as chair of the board, and later president, of the Union of New Brunswick Indians. He has been active in the New Brunswick Law Society and the Canadian Bar Association. In addition, he was one of the founders of the Indigenous Bar Association at a time when there were few lawyers of Aboriginal descent. Clearly the law has been a major force in his life.

A member of the Wolastoqiyik nation, Graydon Nicholas was born and raised on the Tobique First Nation in northern New Brunswick. He planned to become a teacher after he finished his Bachelor of Science degree at St. Francis Xavier University. In preparation, he attended summer classes at UNB in 1968 to get his temporary teacher's license. At the end of the summer the teaching job he had lined up disappeared, but fortunately he was encouraged to enrol in UNB's Law School. After graduation and practising law for a year, he was recruited into Wilfrid Laurier University's Master of Social Work program as the school wished to attract more Aboriginal students. A summer placement in the Guelph Correctional facility, counseling aboriginal inmates was influential in his later practice as a provincial court judge.

Although he didn't get that first teaching position in 1968, in the 1980s and 90s he taught in St. Thomas University's Native Studies program, and served as department chair for part of that period. He has also served as an educational counselor for the Department of Indian Affairs. Education has been a key value for Graydon Nicholas, and he serves on the boards of both St. Thomas University and the small, private St. Stephen University.

In his latest incarnation as Lieutenant-Governor, Graydon Nicholas had three goals in mind: first, to make the role of Lieutenant-Governor more visible in order to be a role model for aboriginal youth; second to visit as many schools as possible (amazingly he came close to visiting three-quarters of them); and finally to show respect for the elders by visiting nursing homes. In the latter case he met some amazing seniors, or 'walking libraries,' as he called them.

His awards are numerous: New Brunswick Human Rights Award, Canada 125 medal, YMCA Peace Medallion, the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal, the Ilsa Greenblatt Shore Distinguished Graduate Award from UNB's Faculty of Law, as well as two honorary degrees. Graydon Nicholas is a man of strong spiritual conviction and great compassion. UNB is fortunate to have him as a loyal alumnus and friend and is pleased to award him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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