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Yellowknifer gets praise from Governor General
Marie Wilson honoured for Truth and Reconciliation work; also awarded honorary degrees

Emelie Peacock
Northern News Services
Friday, June 23, 2017

Marie Wilson jokes that it's her Oscar season, having received three honours this month for her work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and her long career in Northern media.

NNSL photograph

J. Wilton Littlechild, left, Governor-General David Johnston and Marie Wilson at Rideau Hall, June 19. Wilson, Littlechild and Justice Murray Sinclair, not present, received the meritorious service cross in recognition of their work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada during a special event recognizing outstanding indigenous leadership. - photo courtesy of Master Cpl. Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall

Wilson was awarded the meritorious service cross together with Justice Murray Sinclair and Chief Wilton Littlechild on Monday for their work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

On Wednesday, Wilson received an honorary doctor of laws from her alma mater Western University, less than two week after she was awarded a similar honorary degree from the University of Alberta.

"I've always been involved in things that required, I mean yes it requires somebody who is going to fight for things and be loud and noisy and unavoidable but none of those things happen alone," she said of the honours she received.

"It really does belong to everyone and you're the lucky person that gets to be the recipient on behalf of so many others."

Wilson admits she didn't know what the meritorious service cross was when she first heard she would be a recipient.

Awarded by the Governor General of Canada, the service cross recognizes Canadians who have done something exceptional and brought honour to Canada with that work.

Wilson received the award from Governor-General David Johnston for her six years with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, together with Chief Commissioner Murray Sinclair and Wilton Littlechild.

"I really am there as, I think, the channel for all the survivors," Wilson said.

"I feel the same way about my honorary degrees, although they do talk about my history at the CBC and my accomplishments in the CBC which matters a lot to me and I spent more time doing that than the commission."

Two days after receiving the meritorious service cross, Wilson received an honorary degree from Western University where she was a student in 1972 and again in 1977. Amit Chakma, president of the university, said the degree was in recognition of her work with the commission and in journalism.

"You have helped us understand the collective responsibility Canadians have for the many traumas inflicted by and as a result of residential schools. Through your work in journalism, you have given voice to indigenous perspectives across Canada and we are proud to honour you today," he said during Wednesday's ceremony.

Earlier this month, Wilson and fellow Northerner Sharon Firth received honorary degrees from the University of Alberta. A four-time Olympian cross-country skier and Gwich'in First Nation member, Firth is also a survivor of the residential school system.

Wilson said her years hearing survivor's stories has left her with a lot of hope about the future.

"I'm very hopeful, I'm a very positive person," she said.

"It is people who have been to hell and back and they're sitting there, somehow, finding it within themselves, to tell you what happened to them. It is devastating but it is extraordinarily hopeful."

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