Vancouver Island University honoured royal representatives and installed its new chancellor at its winter convocations last week.
David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, and his wife, Sharon, were each presented with an honorary doctorate of laws at the Port Theatre Thursday.
The Governor General was in Nanaimo as part of a visit to B.C. for a number of engagements that included Thursday’s convocation, an address to the Vancouver Board of Trade and a tour of the Harmac Pacific pulp mill.
Johnston addressed students about to graduate from VIU’s arts and humanities, social sciences and management programs, on the benefits of Canada’s education system and of living in a democracy, which provides freedom to learn and seek knowledge.
Citing what he characterized as abysmally low voter turnout for elections over the past decade, said Canadians should take a vested interest in their country and its people by participating fully in their democracy, especially when facing the challenges of First Nations issues, aging population, globalization, the economy, alternative energy sources and responsible development of natural resources the graduates will grapple with.
“Of course there is cynicism; we recognize that,” Johnston said. “There are those who distrust those in charge at every level and there are those who even doubt our democratic institutions can create positive change. Yet, there are many more, who know more and more, that they have the potential to and the power to make their voices heard to create a smarter, more caring nation of keener minds and brighter hearts.”
Johnston also congratulated Louise Mandell, one of Canada’s foremost aboriginal rights lawyers, who was installed as VIU’s second chancellor during the convocation ceremony, replacing Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Johnston said, in an interview prior to the convocation, he and his wife considered it an honour to be recognized by VIU.
“It’s a great honour to be recognized by this university, which has been so special in its community, gone through very interesting stages of evolution and has, perhaps, the largest indigenous population of any university in the country, so it’s very advanced in that respect,” Johnston said. “It has a very large international education component. It’s a non-convention place in the sense that it’s very innovative and we’re pretty excited that, in about an hour’s time, we’ll be members of this community.”