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Honorary degree citation - Ted Moses

By: Daniel Salée, June 2005

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Ted Moses, international human rights leader, aboriginal.

Grand Chief Dr. Ted Moses has always taken to heart the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." It has been his life's work to ensure that those words are meaningful and implemented, wherever and whenever he can influence the course of events.

Ted Moses was born on his parents' trapline at Eastmain, James Bay, and educated at Ryerson and McGill Universities. From the earliest days of his career, he has been in demand for his leadership and negotiating skills. His own community was the first to recognize the exceptional nature of these skills. As Band Manager, then eventually Chief at Eastmain, he grew familiar with the nature of the challenges his people faced. Repeatedly, he served as Chief Negotiator on their behalf, or broke new ground by taking their case to higher authorities. In so doing, he was exposed to increasingly wider audiences, earning international respect and credibility.

Avant d'être élu grand chef en 1984, Ted Moses a été le négociateur en chef cri lors des négociations avec le gouvernement fédéral en vue de la mise en oeuvre de la très avant-gardiste Convention de la Baie James et du Nord québécois. Il a aussi participé aux négociations de la première loi concernant le gouvernement autochtone local du Canada, la Loi sur les Cris et les Naskapis du Québec, et à celles du projet de loi qui a parachevé la création de la Commission scolaire crie.

In 1987, in part because of his efforts, the United Nations granted consultative status to the Grand Council of the Crees. In January of 1989, Chief Moses was elected as the Rapporteur for the United Nations meeting on the Effects of Racism and Racial Discrimination on the Social and Economic Relations between Indigenous Peoples and States. He was the first indigenous person to be honoured in this way.

This international recognition has led to worldwide recognition for Ted Moses. He is recognized as a United Nations experts, and he is frequently published and quoted in international journals. His impact on indigenous rights policy has been profound.

Among many achievements, he is a founding member with Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Turn of the Indigenous Initiative for Peace, and he has accompanied her on many peace missions to conflict zones. His work has led to the very important UN decision that Canada's policy of "extinguishment" of aboriginal rights violates its international treaty obligations, and to our country's recognition that aboriginal peoples have the right of self determination in international law. Ted Moses has developed significant cultural and tourism exchanges between the Cree people and communities in Italy.

Le 7 février 2002, le grand chef Moses et le premier ministre du Québec, M. Bernard Landry, ont signé une entente établissant une nouvelle relation de nation à nation entre les Cris du Québec et le gouvernement du Québec. Pour la première fois au Canada, une entente marquait le début de l'application de l'un des plus importants principes de l'autodétermination, à savoir le droit des peuples autochtones de profiter des richesses naturelles sur leurs propres territoires.

The great American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him." This is the lesson that Ted Moses has taught us through the living of his life.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you Ted Moses, so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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