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Ovide Mercredi

Former national chief, Assembly of First Nations to receive honorary degree

October 11, 2018 — 


Each year, the University of Manitoba bestows honorary degrees upon individuals who have achieved preeminence in the advancement of culture, communications, education, administration, scholarship, leadership, philanthropy, mentorship and business.

During the 51st annual Fall Convocation of the University of Manitoba on October 17, 2018, an honorary degree will be awarded to a tireless advocate for Indigenous rights:


Mr. Ovide Mercredi, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, is a highly respected lawyer, negotiator, lecturer, activist, artist, author and poet. During his decades of advocacy for Indigenous rights, Mr. Mercredi has championed education and charted a path toward reconciliation.

Born into a traditional Cree family in 1946 in Grand Rapids, Man., he learned early on about social injustice. When he was a teenager, his family lost their home and traditional way of life to massive hydro development in their community.

This experience ignited young Ovide’s political awareness and moved him to pursue higher education at the University of Manitoba in 1970. Without Grade 12, he was able to attend the U of M through the ACCESS program. He was a trailblazing student, helping to establish the first Indigenous Students’ Association in Canada, and as its president successfully lobbied for a department of Native Studies. He graduated with a law degree.

Inspired by the teachings of notable world leaders who advocated non-violent protest, particularly Mohandas K. Gandhi, Mr. Mercredi formed a strong belief that constitutional law must be the basis for achieving real change for Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

Mr. Mercredi was elected Manitoba regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in 1989, and soon became a leading advocate for the right to self-government. Not only was he a key strategist in helping defeat the Meech Lake Accord, he played an integral role in resolving the Oka Crisis in Quebec.

From 1991-97, he served two terms as national chief for the Assembly of First Nations, representing 1.5 million people from more than 600 bands. Involved in formulating the Charlottetown Accord, Mr. Mercredi addressed the United Nations in both Geneva and New York. And from 2005-11, he brought many improvements to his home community as chief of the Misipawistik Cree Nation.

Today, Mr. Mercredi is helping to transform health services for those living in the 49 communities of Nishnawbe Aski Nation in northern Ontario.

Mr. Mercredi has been actively involved with the University of Manitoba as an advisor on many issues, and received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to Mr. Ovide Mercredi, a tireless advocate and mentor who guides us on the path to reconciliation.

Watch Ovide Mercredi’s Convocation address.

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