This year U of T will award honorary degrees to 16 Canadian and international leaders in recognition of their accomplishments, which include advocacy work for Indigenous communities, human rights and anti-poverty initiatives in impoverished nations, and the disproving of famed scientist Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution.
Among the honorees is Susan Aglukark, an Inuk singer and songwriter born in Manitoba and raised in Nunavut. Through her work in the music and entertainment industry, she has taken stories of her youth and the difficulties faced by the Indigenous communities and used them to advocate for cultural healing.
The same goes for Phil Fontaine, who, as Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, successfully negotiated the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and resolved the largest Canadian class action lawsuit. The agreement compensated the thousands of Aboriginals removed from their families and placed in the residential school system and established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Amal Basha is the founder of the Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights in Yemen and has actively pushed for the Yemeni government to respect basic human rights and international conventions, especially those concerning violence against women. She has publicly confronted Yemeni officials over these issues, despite great risk to her personal safety.
Reeta Roy, CEO of the MasterCard Foundation, is also being awarded. She has partnered with over 20 prominent educational institutions, including U of T, to provide scholarships for qualified, economically disadvantaged students in sub-Saharan Africa.
British scientists Rosemary and Peter Grant are renowned worldwide for their four decades worth of work in evolutionary biology, especially in relation with the work of Darwin. Through their research they found that, in contrast with Darwin, evolution by natural selection can be seen within a person’s lifetime, effectively disproving one of the Darwinian theories.
Another scientist, Arthur McDonald, the 2015 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, will be recognized for his contributions to measuring the properties of basic neutrinos, as well as his help with getting the general population to better understand the universe and its development.
In journalism, CBC News Chief Correspondent Peter Mansbridge will be recognized, along with André Picard, a health columnist at The Globe and Mail.
In addition, historian and former Trinity College Provost Margaret MacMillan will also be among the recipients.
The degrees will be conferred at the upcoming convocation ceremonies in June.