Honorary Degree Recipients 2019
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Alice Klein is a social activist, writer, entrepreneur, eco-feminist and unapologetic social change advocate. She is also the veteran editor, CEO, and owner of NOW, Toronto’s longest running, free alternative media organization. She co-founded NOW in 1981 to address the need for an alternative press to cover cultural and social movements that were being ignored by mainstream media. Reaching half a million print and digital readers, Ms. Klein freely admits that the progressive publication serves as a crusader for social and environmental justice.
In the era of #MeToo and the Black Lives Matter movement, Ms. Klein emphasizes the need for independent journalism. She is a former president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), serves on its board along with that of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia based in Washington, D.C., and in the past has also served on the boards of the Centre for Social Innovation and the Toronto Arts Council. She is a founding member of Green Enterprise Toronto (GET) and one of the co-creators of VoteforEnvironment.ca and Project Democracy.
“Social Justice Crusader. Feminist Pioneer. Original Thinker. These are just a few phrases used to describe Alice Klein. She possesses the courage and drive to address so many issues that mainstream media can tend to ignore or fail to address. She dives into the difficult stories, the stories that need to be told and discussed. She embodies Trent’s vision for critical thinking, commitment to excellence, and innovation.” – anonymous nominator
Ms. Klein has been involved in politics and social justice since an early age. While still an undergraduate, her first editing role was for the early feminist publication “The Velvet Fist” in 1971. An anthology on working women which included her essay on turn-of-the-century unionized women working in Toronto, was the recipient of a Toronto Book Award. Ms. Klein first worked with NOW co-founder Michael Hollett while involved in student politics and the campus newspaper at York University.
Ms. Klein wrote, directed and produced Call of the Hummingbird. The 2007 documentary feature film about people gathered in Brazil to make the world a better place was screened at many global film festivals including SXSW and Hot Docs.
In 2000, Ms. Klein was named one of the 100 Graduates Who Shaped the Century by the University of Toronto Alumni Association. In 2010, she received The Living Institute Cultural Innovator Award for her work on NOW, and in 2012 received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Ms. Klein graduated from the University of Toronto with an undergraduate degree in Social History.
In acknowledgement of the recognition from Trent University, Ms. Klein states, "It is tougher now than ever to be creating cool and interesting media that is both self-sustaining and continuously challenging of the mainstream – let's face it, patriarchal – media narrative. The honorary doctorate being bestowed on me by Trent University has reminded me that it is also so joyful and inspiring and such a privilege. I am beyond thankful."
Dr. Cindy Blackstock is a member of the Gitxsan First Nation and the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. The internationally recognized activist and scholar has been described as “the greatest civil rights heroine in our country,” “a moral voice” and one of “Canada’s foremost spokespersons for the rights of First Nations children.”
Throughout her 25-year career in social work, the professor at the McGill University School of Social Work, implements evidence-informed solutions and Indigenous knowledge to address modern-day inequalities faced by First Nations children and youth. As the creator of Touchstones of Hope, a process that unites public child welfare practitioners and members of First Nations communities, Dr. Blackstock is creating a large reconciliation movement.
“With Professor Blackstock people come together to speak the truth that is the first step to reconciliation. Her work and how she builds alliances to accomplish important goals then is inherently about the process of reconciliation and that is what we need to be honouring and that is what we as an institution need to be emulating. Having her on campus, honouring her – giving the students the opportunity to meet a model of reconciliation – is a worthwhile thing to do.” – Dr. John Milloy, Professor Emeritus, Trent University
In 2007, Dr. Blackstock, along with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations launched a complaint showing discrimination against reserve-based children through systemic underfunding and lack of services. Hailed as a landmark case, the 2016 ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the Government of Canada to end discriminatory practices. Instrumental in many important initiatives including Jordan’s Principle, her efforts in this case were featured in a 2016 documentary by Abenaki filmmaker: Alanis Obomsawin. “We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice” was released at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Familiar with Trent University, Dr. Blackstock has participated in various forums including Trent’s “Canadian Difference” online discussion on Reconciliation in 2016 with Professors Emeritus, Dr. John Milloy and Marlene Brant Castellano. She has worked with Unicef, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations, as well as other UN bodies to increase awareness of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. She served as an advisor to the Assembly of First Nations, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada) and other government agencies.
Dr. Blackstock’s research interests include Indigenous theory and the identification and remediation of structural inequalities affecting First Nations children, youth and their families. She has written over 50 publications and is a prolific public speaker across Canada. She served on several child welfare review services and has presented her expertise to the Senate of Canada and House of Commons.
In 2017, Amnesty International awarded Canada's Indigenous rights movement its Ambassador of Conscience Award. Dr. Blackstock was included as a representative of Canada's Indigenous peoples. Her work has received recognition from: the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (Indspire), the Indigenous Bar Association, Frontline Defenders, the Assembly of First Nations, BC Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Institute of Child Health, Law Society of Upper Canada (Law Society of Ontario), the Broadbent Institute, Canadian Labour Congress and more.
Dr. Blackstock has been awarded honorary degrees from 18 universities across Canada. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2010, she was nominated as an Ashoka Fellow.
Dr. Blackstock has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia; master's degrees, in Management and Jurisprudence in Children's Law and Policy, from McGill University and Loyola University Chicago; and a Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Toronto.
In acknowledgment of the recognition from Trent University, Dr. Blackstock states, “It is such an honour to be in the company of many talented Trent University graduates on one of the most special days of their lives. I’d like to recognize the collective effort across generations to achieve culturally-based equity for this generation of First Nations children and all future generations. It is a particular honour to be recognized by Trent University, as it is home to Professor John Milloy, whose tremendous work demonstrates how history shapes our present reality. Thank you so much for this great honour.”
Jeannette Corbiere Lavell was born into the Wiikwemikoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island. She is an Anishinaabe kwe community worker who has dedicated her decades-long career to raising the status of Canadian Indigenous women. She pursues equality and recognition for First Nations women and children. Since 2008 she continues to serve as Anishinabek Nation Citizenship Commissioner. In addition to pursuing human rights, she is also focused on water protection.
“One person’s voice can make a difference. This is what Jeannette has proved through her persistence in advocating for Indigenous women’s rights throughout Canada, and notably advancing gender equality under Canadian law. Jeannette is truly an inspiration to Indigenous women, families and communities, and undoubtedly will serve as an inspiration for Trent’s Community.” – anonymous nominator
Soon after her marriage in 1970 to a non-Indigenous man, Ms. Corbiere Lavell lost her legal status. As this condition did not apply to Indigenous men, she brought forward a court challenge to the Indian Act. Initially this challenge failed, but eventually inspired other challenges leading to action toward gender discrimination and success and fairness for Indigenous women.
She moved to the urban centre of Toronto after completing Business School in North Bay to work for the Native Canadian Centre. She was the president of both the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the Nishnawbe Institute and Anduhyaun Inc., an organization that supports Indigenous women and children in their efforts to maintain their cultural identity, self-esteem, economic, physical and spiritual well-being. Ms. Corbiere Lavell founded the Ontario Native Womens Association (ONWA) and was a Cabinet appointee on Ontario’s Commission on the Native Justice System. She worked as a community consultant for the Government of Ontario and also worked as a principal and a school teacher. Ms. Corbiere Lavell also co-edited the 2006 anthology, Until Our Hearts Are On the Ground with her daughter D. Memee Lavell-Harvard.
She was invested into the Order of Canada in 2018. The Ontario Native Womens Association established the Jeannette Corbiere Lavell Award in 1987, presented each year to deserving Indigenous women demonstrating similar qualities and dedication. She was awarded an honorary degree from York University in 2016 and from Nipissing University in 2017 for her work as a Native women’s rights activist and educator. She received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and the Governor General’s Person Award in 2009 in recognition of those who fight for women’s rights in Canada.
She graduated from teacher’s college at the University of Western Ontario.
In acknowledgment of the recognition from Trent University, Ms. Corbiere Lavell states, "As an Indigenous woman, educator and activist, I am grateful and humbled to be the recipient of an Honourary Doctorate of Laws, especially as this year, Trent University is celebrating its 50th Anniversary of Indigenous Studies.”
Jeremiah (Jerry) Coughlan
Jerry Coughlan of Ajax, Ontario is a well-known developer based in the Durham Region. The founder of Coughlan Homes (J.F.C. Developments) is also known for much more than the houses and commercial buildings such as the Deer Creek Golf Club that his company has created. The master builder, visionary and community leader is revered by the local community for his generosity, humility and kindness.
As the youngest of 11 children the self-made business man started his own construction business at the age of 20 in 1968 with a loan from his mother and a passion for learning. Known as the “boy builder,” he would ask accomplished developers to look at their plans so he could learn from the best in the business.
Believing that he has been lucky in his career, Mr. Coughlan was eager to share his own success to give back to the community that supported him. Early on, he founded the Jeremiah and Mildred Coughlan Foundation to support high school students and students in financial need. Without sponsorships provided by the foundation, these students would not have been able to afford a university education.
Mr. Coughlan has since donated over $15 million dollars to local organizations that have special meaning to him including the construction of a new building at the Ajax-Pickering Salvation Army, the Shoulder Centre at the Ajax Pickering Hospital (Lakeridge Health), the Ajax Pickering Hospital Foundation in support of the new North Pickering Health and Wellness Centre and Grandview Children’s Centre which will be naming a building at their new state-of-the-art centre in his honour.
“Kind. Compassionate. Hard Working. Humble. These are words that have been used to describe Jerry Coughlan. Through his hard work, perseverance, and according to Jerry, “maybe a bit of luck,” he was able to build a construction empire, and acknowledging his success, he feels the need to give back to his community. Granting this award will serve as a well-deserved recognition for Jerry.” – anonymous nominator
Thanks to his philanthropic efforts, the growing community will benefit from improved programming, recreational activities, greater access to outpatient and community-based health care services, new facilities and improved care.
In reaction to learning about the accolade to be bestowed upon him, Mr. Coughlan states, ““As a simple man of humble beginnings, I am greatly honoured to be given this honour. I wish the University continued success.”
Virginia May Katt (Mae Katt) is a member of Temagami First Nation (Ojibway) and a justice advocate. She is a primary health care nurse practitioner with an expansive skill set in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Her forty-year career as a clinician, health administrator, educator, advocate and researcher has been dedicated to improving all aspects of First Nations health in northern communities. She is also equipped with a health policy development and research background in community development, youth suicide, early psychosis, cancer care and acquired brain injury. Ms. Katt is a researcher affiliated with Lakehead University’s Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research and has published in the areas of brain injury and addictions.
Ms. Katt develops programs and treatment teams to treat prescription dependence and provide opiate addiction treatment. Her work at a First Nations high school, led to a significant drop in student opioid use. Her efforts with drug addiction have also received media attention from outlets including the Globe and Mail, CBC Radio, and were featured in the documentary, Rings of Fire.
“Mae Katt, who is a strong advocate for justice for all people, but especially children and those disadvantaged by poverty, conflict, or illness, epitomizes the vision of both Trent University and the Trent/Fleming School of Nursing is a living example of what we would like to see in our graduates. Mae’s work over the past 40 years has been in the area of four of the five foci of our nursing program – Indigenous communities, women’s health & gender, rural health and mental health.
These will resonate with students across many of Trent’s programs.” – anonymous nominator
As a member of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, she developed best practice guidelines regarding substance abuse. Ms. Katt also worked in senior management positions at Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health (Ontario) and Nishnawbe Aski Nation, representing many Ojibway and Cree First Nations in northern Ontario. She developed the Native Nursing Entry program at the School of Nursing at Lakehead University and became its first coordinator.
Ms. Katt sat on the MoHLTC Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council in 2014; and was co-chair of Health Quality Ontario Quality Standards Advisory Committee on Opioid Use Disorder.
She was awarded the Nightingale Honourable Mention in 2013, the Lakehead University Alumni Honour Award and was an Ontario Premier’s Awards Nominee in 1992. In 1986, Ms. Katt received an Honours Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Lakehead University. In 1995 she earned a Master’s of Education also from Lakehead University.
In reaction to learning about the accolade to be awarded to her, Ms. Katt states, “I am humbled by
the recognition bestowed upon me by Trent University. My community of Temagami First Nation has had a long affiliation with this University, most notably through Bruce W. Hodgins, former professor of History and director of Camp Wanapitei on Lake Temagami. I am truly impressed by the commitment Trent University has made to Indigenous knowledge, culture and languages, at the undergraduate and doctorate levels, and its ongoing commitment to Truth and Reconciliation principles and welcoming the Indigenous community into your history.”
British Columbia’s Mark Angelo has travelled more than 1000 rivers throughout the globe, perhaps more than any other person. Declaring that rivers are the arteries of the world, he is a devoted conservationist, paddler, educator, researcher and high-profile communicator dedicated to protecting and conserving our Canadian and international waterways. He was named as one of Canada's 100 greatest modern-day explorers by Canadian Geographic magazine.
His environmental message and mandate are known to millions thanks to his work across the media spectrum. His acclaimed Riverworld program was launched in conjunction with National Geographic on-line and played to sold-out audiences across North America from 2003 to 2007. His follow-up, “Wild Water, Wild Earth” program enjoyed similar success. In the fight against pollution, he co-produced and starred in RiverBlue, the highly-acclaimed feature length documentary, in which Mr. Angelo undertook an unprecedented three year around the world journey by river. His work was also the feature of an Emmy Award winning segment for ABC News. He coordinated the “Water for Life” benefit concert – a major TV special to support access to clean water in Africa and the Nature Trust of British Columbia to protect at risk habitat. In addition to regular public appearances, he has written hundreds of articles and is a regular contributor to the Vancouver Sun.
Mr. Angelo is the founder and chair of BC Rivers Day and World Rivers Day celebrated in over 60 countries around the world. He is the chair emeritus of the Rivers Institute of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). Mr. Angelo continues to work with river-related and environmental organizations throughout the world and mentor young people.
“Trent's website speaks to its unique approach to personal development through supportive, collaborative community engagement and engaged global citizens who are catalysts in developing sustainable solutions to complex issues. Those words effectively describe Mark Angelo and his life’s work as an educator, advocate, communicator and global citizen. To honour him will surely resonate with Trent faculty and students, Canadian and international, across the full spectrum of academic studies and career interests.” – anonymous nominator
Before retiring from BCIT in 2011, Mr. Angelo served as the long-time head of the university’s department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation. Various levels of government, community groups, professional organizations and Indigenous communities have recognized his decades-long efforts in Canada and around the world. His research analysis and advocacy work have been instrumental to provincial and federal public policy changes.
Mr. Angelo served as a chair and inaugural member of the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council; the first non-government provincial representative and chair of the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board; and the inaugural chair of the B.C. Heritage Rivers System. He was appointed to chair the B.C. Park Legacy Panel and served as the Rivers Chair for the Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia.
He has been recognized with the Order of British Columbia, the Order of Canada and the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals. He was also honoured with the United Nations Stewardship Award, the National River Conservation Award and was inducted into the Fraser River Hall of Fame. He also earned the Barsby Award for lifetime achievement, the highest award bestowed by B.C. Wildlife Federation. He received an Honorary Doctorate from Simon Fraser University and a lifetime achievement award from the BCIT Alumni and Foundation. In addition to receiving many other honours throughout his career, The City of Burnaby also named the Angelo Creek after him.
Mr. Angelo is a Fellow of the Explorers Club and Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. He graduated from the University of Montana.
In acknowledgment of the recognition from Trent University, Mr. Angelo states, “I’m grateful and humbled to receive an honorary doctorate from Trent University, an institution so renowned as a global leader in Environmental Sciences. I’m also honoured to join the ranks of past recipients who I have long admired and respected.”
Michael Cooke is known as the longest-serving editor in the Toronto Star’s recent history. His journalism career began at the age of 17, working as an apprentice newspaper reporter on Britain’s Fleet Street before immigrating to Toronto in the 1970s and landing a job on the copy desk of the Toronto Star. Under his leadership, The Star won the JF Jackman Award for Excellence in Journalism at the Canadian Journalism Foundation Awards in 2010, 2011 and 2014. Mr. Cooke was known for incorporating the use of technology and social media into the paper’s coverage of events including the 2010 Toronto G20 summit and protests.
However, he began a new story in 2010. Dedicated to social justice and the protection of individual and civil liberties, Mr. Cooke joined the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) and is now serving as board chair of Canada’s largest, international media development organization that trains journalists to report on human rights and governance issues in their communities.
Through JHR, Mr. Cooke has been travelling and teaching pro-bono throughout Africa. He has also taught for other non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) in Uganda, Myanmar and Bangladesh. From abroad he files stories, conducts journalism needs assessments and workshops about issues including the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Mr. Cooke also inspired a training program with media across Canada. Going forward he will continue to help journalists prosper in the digital age and work with humanitarian projects and human rights reporting.
“Michael encompasses many Trent values, including: freedom of expression, commitment to free enquiry, social responsibility and critical engagement with the world. It would truly be an honour to welcome him into the Trent community, and he would serve as an inspiration for Trent alumni, students and staff.” – anonymous nominator
His journalism career began at the age of 16 working as an apprentice newspaper reporter on Britain’s Fleet Street before immigrating to Toronto in the 1970s and landing a job on the copy desk of the Toronto Star.
Intrigued by Canadian politics, he took on editorial positions at various Canadian newspapers including the Montreal Gazette, Edmonton Journal and the Vancouver Province. In 1995 he was a co-founding editor of the National Post. He was also the last editor of the Financial Post before the papers merged. He served in editorial positions at the Chicago-Sun Times and the New York Daily News. Coming full circle, he returned to the Toronto Star in 2009 and served as editor before retiring in 2018.
Under his leadership, The Star won the JF Jackman Award for Excellence in Journalism at the Canadian Journalism Foundation Awards in 2010, 2011 and 2014. Mr. Cooke was known for incorporating the use of technology and social media into the paper’s coverage of events including the 2010 Toronto G20 summit and protests.
In acknowledgment of the recognition from Trent University, Mr. Cooke states, “For a man of 66 who left high school 50 years ago to join the work force at 16, the very idea of being awarded not just a university degree but a DOCTORATE! Well, that strange sight you see is me levitating.”