Committed to truth, reconciliation, and education
The Honourable Murray Sinclair is the 48th inductee to its Citizens Hall of Fame
Cliff King, Chair of the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board’s Citizens Hall of Fame Selection Committee, welcomes the selection of the Honorable Murray Sinclair, C.C., M.S.C. as the 48th inductee to the Citizens Hall of Fame.
His Honour is an individual who brings global recognition to our city as a leading advocate for Indigenous Peoples in Canada. He served as the first Indigenous judge in Manitoba and the second in Canada. On the national level, he served as chairman of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which documented the history of residential schools in Canada and issued 94 Calls to Action and called upon all parts of Canadian Society to commit to reconciliation and to build a more respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. He was appointed as a senator from Manitoba in April 2016. Since being appointed to the Senate, Senator Sinclair has helped form the Independent Senators Group and has sat on the Senate Standing Committees on Aboriginal/Indigenous Peoples, Fisheries and Oceans, Legal and Constitutional issues, Rules, and Ethics and Conflicts of Interest.
The Honourable Murray Sinclair is Anishinaabe and a member of the Peguis First Nation. He is a Fourth Degree Chief of the Midewiwin Society, a traditional healing and spiritual society of the Anishinaabe Nation responsible for protecting the teachings, ceremonies, laws, and history of the Anishinaabe. His Spirit Name is Mizhana Gheezhik (The One Who Speaks of Pictures in the Sky).
“The Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board’s Citizens Hall of Fame program highlights citizens who make outstanding contributions to our city, and in a number of cases, extend well beyond Winnipeg’s boundaries to be of national and international importance,” said King. “This year, our inductee, The Honourable Murray Sinclair, exemplifies this distinction and will participate in the ceremonial bust unveiling of his likeness by local artist Madeleine Vrignon being held September 14, 2022.”
Sinclair, at the age of 37, became Manitoba’s first Indigenous judge and Canada’s second, and in 2001, was appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba where he became the first Indigenous judge at this level. He showed great promise right at the outset of embarking on a legal career where he won the A.J. Christie Prize for being the top student at the University of Manitoba in litigation in his second year of law school.
Due in part to his already well established expertise and background in Indigenous law and human rights as legal counsel for organizations such as the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, the Manitoba Metis Federation, and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, he was named co-commissioner of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry in 1988 where the in-depth study brought forward 296 recommendations on how to reform the justice system in its treatment of Indigenous peoples. They still resonate today.
He headed up the Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Inquiry in the mid-1990s and completed the 502-page report of the Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Inquest in 2000. This led to significant changes in pediatric cardiac surgery in Manitoba and to the examination of medical and systemic error in Canada. It also brought out the need for hospitals to provide the necessary information to parents on the surgeries being done so they can provide informed consent to allow the surgeries to be conducted on their children.
Sinclair chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada from 2009 to 2015 to tell the history of residential schools through the survivors and played an integral role in revealing the truth of what happened and helped set a path towards reconciliation between Indigenous peoples, the churches, and the federal government. By 2015, the commission had heard from more than 6,000 former residential school students with the final report containing over 2 million words and 94 recommendations or calls to action made to the federal government. It documented systematic abuse by the schools against the children and as is widely known now, Sinclair has referred to the policies and treatment of the children as cultural genocide.
Sinclair continued his work on Indigenous issues as senator and served on a number of Senate Standing Committees including ones on Indigenous peoples, constitutional issues, and fisheries and oceans.
The Honourable Murray Sinclair has received a number of awards and many honourary doctorates from across the country. Some include the Manitoba Bar Association’s Equality Award, the Canadian Institute for the Administration Justice’s Medal of Justice, Symons Medal (which is a highly prestigious award for exceptional contribution to Canadian life), the Meritorious Service Cross for service to Canada for his work on the TRC, and the Canadian Bar Association President’s medal.
One lifetime achievement award that Sinclair received when he was a senator in 2017 is the Indspire Award (formerly the National Aboriginal Achievement Award) and worth citing is Senator Kim Pate’s quote in celebrating Sinclair’s award in the senate chamber. “Senator Sinclair’s unwavering commitment to addressing and remedying Canada’s legacy of inequality and colonialism inspires each and every one of us every day, as treaty people, to have the courage to similarly demand change and to insist on justice, fairness and equality for all. Thank you, Senator Sinclair. We all benefit and are the better because of your unwavering commitment, your brilliant intellect, your wonderful wit, but most particularly for your unparalleled courage in challenging Canada to improve its treatment of Indigenous peoples and your unwavering faith that, together, we, and all of Canada, can rise to this challenge.”
His Honour received the Order of Canada in 2022 for dedicating his life to championing Indigenous peoples rights and freedoms and received the award from Governor General Mary Simon, Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General.
On Canada’s first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, 2021, The Honorable Murray Sinclair delivered an important message in his current role as Chancellor of Queen’s University. This day came directly out of the calls to action recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission he chaired. As chair he shared through the Commission’s work and effort, Canadians are realizing the truth of what happened in residential schools and how the harder part now is moving to reconciliation. He said, “We have to learn how to talk to and about each other with greater respect than has been the case in the past. And ultimately this process of coming to terms with this past, of reconciling our relationship, means we have to aim towards establishing a relationship of mutual respect.”
Sinclair’s message concluded “that every year on September 30, we will stand together and we will say never again.”