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Honourable Senators,


I rise today to pay tribute to our colleague, the Honourable Senator Donald H. Oliver.


On Tuesday afternoon, Senator Oliver received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from York University in Toronto.  This is Senator Oliver’s fourth honorary degree.


York University honoured Senator Oliver for being a “committed leader devoted to building safe, culturally vibrant and economically prosperous communities with a passion for life and justice.”  


The citation at the Convocation ceremony said in part:


“Senator Donald H. Oliver has devoted his lifetime to the championship of visible minorities and to combating discrimination in its many, overt and more subtle, forms.  Senator Oliver has provided policy leadership in government and the business sector while concurrently broadening public discourse and challenging politicians, managers, citizens, students and future leaders to engage with the full sense of the term diversity and the broadest sense of our ethical obligations to others.


… Raising both awareness and funds, he was the motive force behind the Conference Board of Canada’s comprehensive and transformative report of the barriers to the advancement of visible minorities in Canada’s public and private sectors.”

Honourable colleagues, allow me to share with you some of our colleague’s exceptional achievements in a career that spans five decades.

He graduated from Acadia University with a B.A. Cum Laude in History in 1960.  In 1964, he graduated with a law degree from Dalhousie University as a Sir James Dunn Scholar.  He was the third Black Nova Scotian to receive a law degree.  

He practiced law for 25 years as a civil litigation lawyer in Halifax with Stewart McKelvey Stirling and Scales. 

Donald Oliver is a widely respected community leader who has served on the Board of more than 25 charitable organizations including as Chairman and Life Director of the Neptune Theatre Foundation; Lifetime Honorary Governor of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia; Chairman of the Halifax Children’s Aid Society; and Atlantic Chairman of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. 

He played a key role in establishing the Society for the Protection and Preservation of Black Culture in Nova Scotia in 1983 for which he became the founding President and first Chairman. 

In 1990, he was summoned to the Senate on the recommendation of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and thus became the first Black man in Canadian history to be appointed to this Chamber.  Twenty years later, he became the first Visible Minority appointed Speaker pro tempore of the Senate. 

Senator Oliver has chaired more than six Standing Committees including Transport and Communications, National Finance and Agriculture and Forestry.  He played a leadership role as Chairman of the Legal and Constitutional Committee in 2006 when Prime Minister Harper introduced the Federal Accountability Act.

 One of Senator Oliver’s career highlights came in 2005 when he spearheaded the largest, most comprehensive study ever conducted in Canada on barriers to the advancement of Visible Minorities in the workforce.  He personally raised over $500,000 for the study.  

The cornerstone of this landmark initiative was a 112-page employer’s guide by the Conference Board of Canada which makes the business case for hiring Visible Minorities. 

I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes:

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail.”

Don, you are indeed a trailblazer. 

Honourable Senators, please join me in congratulating our colleague and my friend, Senator Donald H. Oliver on receiving an honorary doctorate from York University.

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