Noted Indigenous lawyer and leader Ovide Mercredi to receive honorary LLD from Law Society of Ontario

Posted: 06/12/2019

The Law Society of Ontario will present a degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LLD), to Ovide Mercredi, a former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, at its Call to the Bar ceremony in Ottawa on June 17, 2019.

As part of its Call ceremonies each year, the Law Society awards honorary doctorates to distinguished people in recognition of outstanding achievements in the legal profession, the rule of law, or the cause of justice. Recipients serve as inspirational keynote speakers for the new lawyers attending the ceremonies.

Mr. Mercredi delivered a powerful and moving speech at the ceremony:

I will share with you my hopes and dreams for a true human country that is founded on the values of justice, fairness, inclusion, equality, diversity, and the two basic human rights: the right to be different and the right to belong.

In my imaginary Canada I see the Indigenous people and Nations occupying a fundamental place of belonging as distinct Nations with rights of self-determination and freedom from want or need.

In my vision of Canada I see no racism. I see no poverty. I see no prejudice nor discrimination. I see no economic or social disparity. And I don’t see one group occupying a greater space for generating and acquiring wealth as a preferential right over other groups in society.

Read the full remarks (PDF).

Ovide Mercredi is a Cree born in the northern community of Grand Rapids. He attended the University of Manitoba and graduated with a degree in law in 1977. While a student, he became president of the first Native Students’ Association formed in Canada. He was a key strategist for the Assembly during the time of the Meech Lake Accord constitutional reform discussions. He was elected Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Manitoba in 1989. He also played a critical role in resolving the Oka Crisis in 1990.

In 1991, Mercredi was elected National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations. During his term, he led the negotiations for the First Nations in the Charlottetown Accord. He served as National Chief until 1997.

In addition to his work as a lawyer and leader of First Nations Peoples, Mercredi is an accomplished author. He is an advocate of non-violent methods for change, and has been nominated by the Government of India for the Gandhi Peace Prize. Mercredi was awarded the Order of Manitoba in 2006 and has received honorary degrees from St. Mary’s University and Bishop’s University.

Mercredi played a pivotal role in the Law Society’s review of regulatory processes affecting Indigenous Peoples. Working with leaders and Elders of First Nations communities, he supported Residential School Survivors in sharing their experiences in a culturally safe, supportive and respectful manner.

Mercredi challenged the Law Society to take action to better support Indigenous communities, making important recommendations for a proactive approach towards meaningful reconciliation, including developing cultural competency for lawyers and paralegals who represent Indigenous Peoples and deal with Indigenous issues.

He is currently helping to transform health services for those living in the 49 communities of Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Northern Ontario.

Mercredi is one of six individuals to receive an honorary LLD from the Law Society this June.