Clockwise from top left: Justice Rosalie Abella, Gary Carriere, Ellen Remai, Sharon Jinkerson-Brass, and Dr. John Conly. (Photos: Submitted)
Clockwise from top left: Justice Rosalie Abella, Gary Carriere, Ellen Remai, Sharon Jinkerson-Brass, and Dr. John Conly. (Photos: Submitted)

USask to pay tribute to honorary degree recipients

SASKATOON – This spring, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) will celebrate five remarkable individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to their communities throughout their careers.

At this year’s USask Spring Convocation at Merlis Belsher Place from June 5-9, the university will award honorary degrees to Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, Indigenous environmentalist Gary Carriere, Dr. John Conly, Elder Sharon Jinkerson-Brass, and celebrated philanthropist Ellen Remai.

USask President and Vice-Chancellor Peter Stoicheff said the university is proud to have the opportunity to highlight and celebrate this year’s esteemed group of honorary degree recipients.

“It is a privilege to be able to shine the spotlight on this group of individuals for their lifelong contributions and commitment to their communities and country,” said Stoicheff. “From dedication to public health and justice, to protecting precious land and water habitats and preserving Indigenous ways of knowing, to promoting culture and the arts, the common string that ties these individuals together is a sense of service. We are proud and grateful to have this opportunity to celebrate the tremendous impact that these honorary degree recipients have had on society, and to bestow on them the university’s highest honour during USask Spring Convocation.”

Here is a look at each of this year’s recipients:

(Honorary Doctor of Laws)

The first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Canada (2004 to 2021), and the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Justice Abella’s remarkable judicial career has been devoted to the advancement of justice, equity, and human dignity. Born in a Displaced Person’s Camp in Stuttgart, Germany on July 1, 1946, Abella’s family came to Canada in 1950, and she later became the first refugee appointed to the bench in Canada. After a remarkable career on the bench, inspiring generations of law students, lawyers, and human rights advocates, she retired on her 75th birthday on July 1, 2021.

Among her many honours, Justice Abella was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1997 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007, and will be one of this year’s inductees to Canada’s Walk of Fame. At USask, she served as guest speaker in the McKercher LLP Lecture Series in 2016, and held a question-and-answer session for the College of Law in 2021. After earning her law degree in 1970, she was called to the Ontario Bar in 1972 and later appointed to Ontario Family Court at the age of 29, becoming the first pregnant person appointed to the judiciary. She was commissioner of the 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, and was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1992.

(Honorary Doctor of Science)

Carriere has devoted a lifetime to advocating for the Swampy Cree and Métis people of the Cumberland House region, sharing traditional teachings to help protect and preserve the Saskatchewan River Delta – the largest inland freshwater delta in North America. A community leader, citizen scientist and instrumental partner in numerous USask research projects over the years, Carriere has generously shared his considerable traditional knowledge of the vast delta region ecosystems, providing invaluable Indigenous ways of knowing, teaching, and learning about its waters, flora and fauna.

Carriere has been a member of the USask-led Global Water Futures (GWF) Advisory Council since 2016 and is a co-investigator on a GWF project on the Saskatchewan River Delta. In 2022, Carriere’s family hosted a USask field school in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy’s Master of Governance and Entrepreneurship in Northern Indigenous Regions program. In 2016, he delivered the keynote address and discussion about reconciliation at the USask leadership forum, and presented to more than 600 scientists at the 2019 GWF annual meeting.

(Honorary Doctor of Science)

Born in Macklin, Sask., Dr. John Conly (MD) was a distinguished graduate of the class of 1978 in USask’s College of Medicine and has gone on to a celebrated career as a physician, scholar, and administrator. His work in the areas of antimicrobial resistance, antimicrobial stewardship, and infection prevention have been recognized nationally and internationally, for which he received appointment to the Order of Canada in 2018, one of the country’s highest civilian honours. Among his many awards, he received a USask Alumni Achievement Award in 2017, for his commitment to advancing the medical profession and dedication to public service.

He is recognized as one of the world’s leading infectious diseases specialists and an expert on antimicrobial resistance, serving on advisory groups within Canada and the World Health Organization. A professor and researcher whose career has spanned nearly four decades at the Universities of Saskatchewan, Toronto, and Calgary, he has served on multiple committees to establish national and international guidelines that minimize the risk of transmission of hospital-acquired infections and antimicrobial resistant organisms. His expertise and leadership in infection prevention was recognized throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Honorary Doctor of Laws)

Elder Sharon Jinkerson-Brass is a member of Key First Nation in Saskatchewan and has been an integral member of the pewaseskwan Indigenous Wellness Research Group at USask, supporting its work as a Traditional Knowledge Holder and Elder for the past eight years. Her contributions have had profoundly positive effects on the communities that she has served on a number of health-related projects. Currently working with USask researcher Dr. Alexandra King (MD) co-lead of pewaseskwan, Elder Jinkerson-Brass is providing support and Indigenous voice to a health-care project involving USask, Key First Nation, and Yorkton Tribal Council.

Elder Jinkerson-Brass has influenced numerous scholars at USask, as well as nationally and internationally. Her life’s work has focused on Indigenization, decolonization, cultural revitalization, and the restoration of matriarchal teachings. She is also an award-winning artist who was the artistic director of Big Sky, a successful multi-media company that performed in the United States and Canada. For 30 years she has also been a community leader working for social change for the Indigenous community in the areas of arts, culture, health and community development.

(Honorary Doctor of Laws)

Ellen Remai has fashioned a lifetime of success as a business leader and entrepreneur and as an inspiring community builder and visionary philanthropist. Sixty years ago, Ellen and her late husband Frank founded Remai Ventures Inc., an influential and successful development and real estate company responsible for creating landmark buildings across Western Canada. Together, they created the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation in 1992, which has carried out a wide variety of philanthropic efforts, including supporting performing and visual arts, and contributing to education, women’s issues, and social and community initiatives. It was through this foundation that Remai was responsible for one of the largest donations to the arts in Canadian history, having now pledged in excess of $100 million to the stunning Remai Modern art gallery in Saskatoon.

She has also funded and supported community and education through Saskatoon Habitat for Humanity, Saskatoon Community Services Village, USask, and Saskatchewan Polytechnic. Through the foundation, Remai has also been a long-time donor and supporter of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, the Persephone Theatre and the Remai Arts Centre, the Station Arts Centre, and the Saskatoon Opera Association. Among her many awards, Remai has been presented with the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross, the YWCA Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award, the Saskatchewan Arts Honorary Award, the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal, a Sask Polytech Honorary Diploma, and earned induction into the SABEX Hall of Fame.

For more information on the upcoming USask Spring Convocation, visit:

An honorary degree is the university’s most prestigious award, acknowledging worthy and unique contributions recipients have made to their community and to the world. USask recognizes individuals who have outstanding accomplishments in research, scholarly and artistic works; performed exceptional public service; contributed greatly through their professional or philanthropic activity; and demonstrated extraordinary athletic prowess. To view past recipients, visit:


For media inquiries, contact:

Victoria Dinh
USask Media Relations

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