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Honorary degree citation - Nancy Neamtan

By: Marguerite Mendell, October 2015

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Ms. Nancy Neamtan, Strategic Advisor and former President and Executive Director of the Chantier de l’économie sociale in Quebec.

We are indebted to Nancy Neamtan for her tireless and passionate commitment to economic democracy, greater equity and social justice in communities across Quebec, throughout Canada and internationally.

This began more than 40 years ago. Following her graduation from McGill University, Nancy Neamtan worked as a community organizer in the southwest of Montreal, where she challenged expert opinion and predictions by stemming the tide of economic decline in the neighbourhood with an innovative citizen driven revitalization strategy. This new model became the template for community economic development initiatives created in the mid 1980’s in Montreal and in other regions of Quebec and across Canada.

Nancy Neamtan’s courage and conviction to work outside the box, to break down barriers between citizens movements, business, labour and government, knows no bounds. It is no wonder that in 1996, the Premier of Quebec, Lucien Bouchard invited her to lead a Task Force on the Social Economy, the Chantier de l’économie sociale, one of three task forces created by the Premier in the 1996 Summit on the Economic and Social Future of Quebec. Under Nancy Neamtan’s leadership, the Chantier became an independent non-profit organization in 1999, that she directed until just a few months ago.

The place of the social economy in the social, economic and institutional landscape in Quebec is a great tribute to Nancy Neamtan’s leadership, her fighting spirit, her integrity and her firm belief in the collective intelligence and capacity of men and women to design sustainable and democratic economic development strategies.

Nancy Neamtan’s legacy in the social economy and community initiatives include the development of financial tools and solidarity finance institutions, research partnerships with universities across the country. She inspires a new generation of young people mobilized to build a better world.

Today’s recognition that collaboration is necessary to address the deep economic, social and environmental crises and meet the challenges of our times represents a decisive historical moment for the social economy. Its contributions societal well-being in Quebec and internationally, well exceed its measureable achievements.

Nancy Neamtan has received numerous awards in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to Quebec society. She is an Officer of the Order of Quebec.

What began as a neighbourhood revitalization project in the southwest of Montreal has led to the creation of a vast and diverse network in the social economy in Quebec and to an international community of practice.

Nancy Neamtan is a social architect. Her legacy is embedded in the many organizations she has founded, directed or inspired. She never wavers from her belief that people can and do make a difference in in the lives of their communities.

Today, we are told that we must work within limits over which we have little or no control; that we can only use the tools at our disposal. If Nancy Neamtan believed this 40 years ago, Quebec would be a different place today. For Nancy Neamtan, the only limitation is the imagination.

Mr. President and Vice-Chancellor, on behalf of the Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and honour to present to you Ms. Nancy Neamtan, so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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