Society and Culture

Human rights leaders to receive honorary degrees during fall convocation

A longtime champion for Métis inclusion and an award-winning writer will inspire the class of 2022 as part of graduation ceremonies in November.

  • October 14, 2022
  • By Bev Betkowski

Two outstanding advocates for human rights, inclusive education and equity will receive the University of Alberta’s highest honour this November as part of fall convocation ceremonies.

“At every convocation, we seek to honour individuals who inspire our students, who reflect the best of what our university strives to achieve, and who have made remarkable contributions to our community and the world,” says U of A chancellor Peggy Garritty.

“Elder Elmer Ghostkeeper and Jalal Barzanji certainly meet that bar, and I’m proud to celebrate their accomplishments this fall.”

Elder Elmer Ghostkeeper

Elder Elmer Ghostkeeper has worked tirelessly over 50 years as a politician, community leader, business person, knowledge keeper and scholar to promote the rights of Métis peoples in Canada and to build relationships across Indigenous and non-Indigenous worldviews. His many accomplishments include serving as president of the Alberta Federation of Métis Settlements Associations, advocating for inclusion of Métis peoples among the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada in the Canadian Constitution. A holder of two U of A anthropology degrees, he has worked extensively as a consultant to shape national, international and local policy, research, and teaching conversations about how Indigenous knowledge systems and western scientific traditions might work together. In addition, his vast experience as a business leader and adviser has resulted in Indigenous knowledges now being included in resource industry projects.

Elmer Ghostkeeper will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree Nov. 22 at 3 p.m.

Jalal Barzanji

Jalal Barzanji is widely respected for his outstanding work as a writer and advocate for human rights and freedom of expression. As a journalist, writer, and executive director of art in the Ministry of Culture in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, he endured imprisonment and exile before fleeing to Canada with his family in 1998. An award-winning author of several poetry collections and books including his memoir, The Man in Blue Pyjamas, he has been an inspiring contributor to Edmonton’s writing and multicultural communities, including serving as the city’s first writer-in-exile in 2007. A respected volunteer, Barzanji established the Canadian Kurdish Friendship Association to assist newcomers to Edmonton, and works with the Edmonton Multicultural Brokers Cooperative as a mentor and advocate. He has also worked with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre to improve educational accessibility to immigrant and refugee youth.

Jalal Barzanji will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree Nov. 23 at 10 a.m.

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