Appointment will “shed light” on issues
St. Thomas University Board of Governors member and former Native Studies chair Judge Graydon Nicholas was appointed incoming Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick on Thursday.
Nicholas, a Maliseet from Tobique First Nation was the first aboriginal person in Atlantic Canada to earn a law degree, and the first to be appointed judge to the Provincial Court.
Premier Shawn Graham says Nicholas’ appointment reflects the potential of STU graduates.
“The fact now that we have an individual who’s so strongly affiliated with the university occupying the highest post of office, speaks volumes to the quality of our school,” said Graham, who graduated from St. Thomas in 1993.
“He exudes integrity, honesty, compassion, and at the same time will be a very strong advocate in strengthening all communities in the province.”
Before becoming a judge, Nicholas worked with the Union of New Brunswick Indians and received several awards for his dedication to the community.
T.J. Burke, the Liberal MLA for Fredericton-Nashwaaksis, has known Nicholas since childhood. Burke said Nicholas motivated him to pursue a career in law.
“He encouraged me to do that because he felt the need for more First Nation lawyers, because the issues are so important to either defend, prosecute, or bring forward to the courts for judicial decision,” said Burke.
“He served as a role model for a lot of young, First Nation’s children growing up in the Tobique, or any First Nation in New Brunswick.”
Andrea Bear Nicholas, a Native Studies professor at STU and Judge Nicholas’ sister-in-law, said the judge is a role model not only because of his accomplishments, but his commitment to his community.
“To the extent that he struggled with us, that’s the role model that I think is important,” Bear Nicholas
She hopes Nicholas can use his position to shed light on unresolved
First Nations issues in New Brunswick.
“There’s a lot of education needing to happen. And if having people in this position can bring Canada to wake up around these issues, I would think that would be really important.”
Chief Candace Paul of St. Mary’s First Nation is also optimistic about what the appointment will mean for aboriginal people.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time. Relationships need to be worked on between First Nation people and the government,” she said, “I think we’re at a low.”
Graham noted that while he recommended Nicholas for the job, ultimately the choice was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s. He said the choice was one First Nations people should be proud of.
“I think the aboriginals of the province and all First Nations communities can be extremely proud of the progress that’s been made over such a short period of time,” he said, referring to both Nicholas’ achievements as well as those of T.J. Burke, the first aboriginal person elected to a legislative assembly in the Atlantic region, and also the youngest and first ever First Nations attorney general in Canada.
Paul says the sense of pride overwhelmed her when she first heard the news.
“I was driving… I looked at my Blackberry and I had to pull of the road because tears were coming down. It was just a sense of pride,” said Paul. “It couldn’t have happened… truly, to a more deserving person.” Nicholas will replace Herménégilde Chiasson who served as Lieutenant Governor since 2003.
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