Queen’s recognizes Raymond Mason with honorary degree
November 15, 2021
In October 2021, Queen’s University bestowed distinguished community leader, activist, entrepreneur, and residential school survivor, Raymond Mason, with an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) — in recognition of his significant contributions to truth and reconciliation, to Indigenous peoples and communities, and to Canadian society at large.
Born in Peguis First Nation in 1946, Mason was one of over 150,000 Indigenous children taken from their homes and sent to residential schools, where he would witness and endure abuses that would shape the trajectory of his life for decades afterward.
Despite the hardships of his youth, Mason persevered, graduating from the University of Manitoba’s commerce program, and going on to lead several successful business ventures. He would eventually create Spirt Wind Inc., an organization that mobilized residential and day school survivors into action and successfully pushed for an official government apology and the Residential School Settlement Agreement.
His leadership of the group would bring him to testify before Parliament on behalf of survivors, and his involvement in major class actions resulted in 2006’s Indian Residential School Agreement. Collectively, these efforts would spur the establishment of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Commission — an initiative chaired by Queen’s current Chancellor, The Honourable Murray Sinclair.
“My warmest congratulations to Mr. Mason on this honour which recognizes his extraordinary courage in overcoming his own challenges as a residential school survivor but, more importantly, for leading the movement to seek redress for other residential school survivors across the country,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane.
Mason expressed feelings of humility in being recognized with an honorary degree and went on to share his deep gratitude for his family, friends, colleagues, and others who worked tirelessly alongside him to push for positive change.
“No matter how big the task is, you must have a strong desire and a strong will to succeed. Work hard and never give up, and you will achieve your goals,” he remarked during the virtual ceremony. “I will never rest in peace until I finish my journey and [Indigenous] people receive their justice.”
Present for the virtual ceremony were Elder Doreen McPherson, Chief Glenn Hudson, and councilors of the Peguis First Nation. Also in attendance were Queen’s Elder-in-Residence Deb St. Amant — who was one of Mason’s nominators for the honour — and members of Queen’s Faculty of Education, where Mason has served as a guest lecturer.
Mason is one of several individuals who will be bestowed with LLDs during the Fall 2021 term. A special in-person ceremony for recipients is set to take place at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Nov. 17.