By Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Two “exceptional” community leaders, who have both spent years advocating for social change and for the rights of Indigenous people, will receive honorary degrees this week when the University of Winnipeg (U of W) holds its annual Spring Convocation.
In a media release, the U of W announced that Diane Redsky and Dr. Alex Wilson will receive Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees at the university’s downtown campus during a ceremony on Thursday.
“UWinnipeg is proud to recognize Diane Redsky and Dr. Alex Wilson for their lifelong dedication to advocating for social change,” U of W Chancellor Barb Gamey said in a release.
“Their leadership has had a profound effect on the individuals they work with, and is foundational in our work as a society to move towards reconciliation.”
Gamey said that Redsky, who is a member of Shoal Lake First Nation 40 and the executive director of the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, works to empower and support Indigenous women and families in Manitoba, and that work has been “instrumental in strengthening the health and well-being of Winnipeg’s Indigenous community.”
“Thanks to Redsky’s leadership, professionally and as a volunteer, there are innovative programs to support Indigenous women and children, safe havens for survivors, and recovery programs for people in need,” Gamey said.
“She is a well-spoken advocate for ending violence against women. Her commitment to creating safe spaces to support women and girls affected by sex trafficking has led her to gather data, lobby policy-makers, and develop programming for survivors.”
Redsky previously led a National Task Force on Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada, when it delivered a comprehensive strategy to end sex trafficking in Canada, and U of W said she was also “instrumental” in the creation of UW’s Sex Trafficking: Global to Local course.
The U of W said Wilson, who is an on-reserve member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN), will be honoured for the work she does to develop land-based programming for Indigenous people, and for the work she has done for years to support and empower Indigenous women, and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community.
“A champion of the rights of queer, trans, and two-spirit people, Wilson’s work addresses some of the most pressing issues facing Indigenous communities; chronically insufficient housing, record-high suicide rates, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-spirit people,” Gamey said.
“Dr. Wilson is an acclaimed educator, scholar, and researcher whose commitment to building and sharing knowledge about land-based learning and two-spirit identity, history, and teachings has influenced educational policy at regional, national, and international levels.”
Wilson is also the first Canadian First Nations woman to receive a doctorate from Harvard, and U of W said her experience as a teaching fellow in Harvard’s first interdisciplinary course on First Peoples and governance led to the formation of two courses that the U of W says “now serve as a foundation for training curriculum in communities throughout Canada and the United States.”
– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the -Government of Canada. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.