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Murray Sinclair given Order of Canada for championing Indigenous rights and freedoms

Sinclair also received Meritorious Service Cross for role in overseeing Truth and Reconciliation commission

Murray Sinclair sits in the ballroom at Rideau Hall after being invested as a companion of the Order of Canada and receiving a Meritorious Service Cross in Ottawa on Thursday.

Murray Sinclair sits in the ballroom at Rideau Hall after being invested as a companion of the Order of Canada and receiving a Meritorious Service Cross in Ottawa on Thursday.

Photo:  (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

RCI

Murray Sinclair was awarded the Order of Canada during a ceremony Thursday at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

The former senator, who was recognized for dedicating his life to championing Indigenous people's rights and freedoms, held his wife's hand as the award was announced and was met with a standing ovation as he rose to receive it.

Sinclair, 71, is also a highly respected voice on matters of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Born in 1951 and raised on the former St. Peter's Indian Reserve in the Selkirk area north of Winnipeg, Sinclair is Anishinaabe and a member of Peguis First Nation.

Sinclair was the first Indigenous judge on the bench in Manitoba, and only the second Indigenous judge appointed in Canada.

He also served as the co-chair of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry in Manitoba, commissioned in 1988.

Katherine Morrisseau-Sinclair holds the hand of her husband, Murray Sinclair, at Thursday's ceremony.

Katherine Morrisseau-Sinclair holds the hand of her husband, Murray Sinclair, at Thursday's ceremony.

Photo:  (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

His appointment to the Senate came in April 2016, four months after the final Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. He retired from that position on Jan. 31, 2021 (new window), and assumed the role of Chancellor of Queen's University on July 1, 2021.

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon presented the award to Sinclair at Thursday's ceremony, which was held several months after it was first announced he would receive the honour.

By accepting the award, Sinclair wanted to show the country that working on Indigenous issues calls for national attention and participation, he said in an interview.

He said he has begun to reflect on his life and realizes he's had both the joy and sadness that comes with participating in this work.

The award recognizes the importance of that work and can act as inspiration for younger people, Sinclair said.

When I speak to young people, I always tell them that we all have a responsibility to do the best that we can and to be the best that we can be, he said.

Murray Sinclair is embraced by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon after being invested as a companion of the Order of Canada.

Murray Sinclair is embraced by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon after being invested as a companion of the Order of Canada.

Photo:  (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigated the experiences of Indigenous children sent to residential schools.

He said it was a particular honour to receive the award from Simon, the first Indigenous Governor General, as she is a good friend and was an honorary witness to the commission.

As an Indigenous person, we had a unique relationship, and I think we brought it to what happened here, he said.

The Order of Canada is one of the country's highest distinctions, for those who have made exceptional contributions to Canadian society.

Sinclair also received the Meritorious Service Cross for his role in overseeing the Truth and Reconciliation commission and producing its final report.

Erika Ibrahim (new window) · The Canadian Press

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