Paul Thomas, Cindy Blackstock, Byron Williams to receive honorary doctorates

Scholar Paul Thomas, Indigenous activist Cindy Blackstock, and public interest lawyer Byron Williams will each receive an honorary doctor of laws from The University of Winnipeg at Spring Convocation on Thursday, June 15, 2017 and Friday, June 16, 2017.

Paul Thomas

Paul Thomas


Cindy Blackstock


Byron Williams

Paul Thomas has served as a scholar, teacher, researcher, and mentor in the field of public administration for more than 40 years. One of his most significant contributions, in partnership with Dr. Robert Adie, was to establish the joint Master in Public Administration program offered by University of Manitoba and UWinnipeg, which has nurtured a stream of well-educated graduates since 1976.  He also designed the first Legislative Internship that allows six university graduates each year to provide research assistance to Manitoba Members of the Legislative Assembly. Thomas is a highly respected researcher and professor known to challenge his pupils and their perspectives with his breadth and depth of knowledge. His wisdom is often sought on many matters in a wide range of policy areas, including health care and electoral issues.

Cindy Blackstock is a tireless advocate for some of society’s most vulnerable people –Indigenous children, youth, and families. Blackstock is a Gitxsan activist whose acclaimed work was a case heard before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which took nine years to resolve. In 2016, the Tribunal found that Canada was discriminatory in its funding of child welfare services for First Nations children, a watershed moment in Canadian history. She continues to make time for community, including working with Indigenous leaders and non-Indigenous allies — particularly children — to promote reconciliation through initiatives such as Have a Heart Day, Jordan’s Principle, Bear Witness Day, and Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams.

Byron Williams is a committed and talented public interest lawyer who has spent more than two decades championing the rights of Manitoba’s most vulnerable citizens. As director of the unique Public Interest Law Centre within Legal Aid Manitoba, Williams has developed an expertise in public interest test case litigation — especially in the areas of human rights and poverty, and in environmental, consumer, and Indigenous law. His victories change lives. In large part as a result of his successful challenges, Manitoba now has among the lowest payday loan rates in Canada; same sex couples are able to adopt; and the federal government broadened the definition of family for compassionate employment insurance care benefits. He accomplishes these feats by bringing together highly qualified experts and grassroots community organizations to form effective teams.

“These are extraordinary people who use their considerable talents to strengthen our community,” said Dr. Annette Trimbee, President and Vice-Chancellor, UWinnipeg. “Although they serve the public interest in different ways, the work of Paul, Cindy and Byron has helped others find their voice. They demonstrate moral courage and tenacity, and have had significant impact in empowering others.”

Spring Convocation ceremonies take place Thursday, June 15, 2017 at  9:30 am and 2:30 pm,  and Friday, June 16, 2017, 9:30 am, in the Duckworth Centre, 400 Spence Street.

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Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg

P: 204.988.7135, E:








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