Monday, June 12, 2017
group of women law grads

University of Toronto Faculty of Law bestows an honorary degree to TRC and Indigenous rights advocate and leader, Larry Phillip (Phil) Fontaine

The remarkably accomplished group that makes up Faculty of Law alumni now has more than 200 new members, as the Class of 2017 officially graduated on Convocation Day, June 9, and celebrated with their family and friends.

law grads walking into Convocation Hall

The newly minted law graduates enjoyed a warm, sunny spring day as they walked across King’s College Circle into historic Convocation Hall, together with graduates from the Munk School of Global Affairs, to participate in the traditional ceremony, walk across the dais, pick up their degrees—and take part in the requisite photo-taking and family-hugging afterwards on the Convocation Plaza lawn.

Phil Fontaine gets hooded for honorary degree

Prof. Douglas Sanderson hoods honorary degree recipient Phil Fontaine, as Chancellor Michael Wilson officially bestows a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

In this year of Truth and Reconciliation, honorary degree recipient Phil Fontaine, the key architect of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement , a former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations for an unprecedented three consecutive terms, and a passionate advocate for Indigenous rights, accepted a doctor of laws from the University of Toronto, to a warm standing ovation. His inspiring speech, where he recalled the resiliency and determination of his widowed mother—the first Indigenous woman elected to public office, in 1952— the close-knit bonds between him and his nine siblings, and their rise above the horrors of the residential schools system, where Fontaine and many other Indigenous children suffered physical, mental and sexual abuse.

wide shot of Convocation Hall audience

Law reception

Following the ceremony, the Faculty of Law held a reception for the graduates and their families, which returned to its traditional law school location now that the building construction is completed. Top students received their academic medals, school spirit recognitions, and the Dean’s Key. Kartiga Thavaraj was valedictorian; Prof. Anthony Niblett received the Mewett Teaching Award, and gave the Hail and Farewell Speech.