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

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, who was the first Indigenous judge in Manitoba, 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.

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon presented him with the award at the ceremony, which was held several months after it was first announced Sinclair 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.

Katherine Morrisseau-Sinclair holds the hand of her husband, Murray Sinclair, at Thursday’s ceremony. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

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.

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.

Murray Sinclair is embraced by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon after being invested as a companion of the Order of Canada. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

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.

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