Outstanding Native Student of the Year

January 27, 2014

First Nations House

Check against delivery.

I am delighted to be here today to participate in this award ceremony alongside families, elders and invited guests — who have all gathered to celebrate the achievements of this afternoon’s recipients. I would like to acknowledge the excellent, ongoing leadership of Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo and his team.

The mandate of First Nations House is so crucial in helping the University of Toronto engage with the broader question of Canada’s relationship with First Nations people. Fostering a robust Aboriginal presence in Canadian universities offers hope for educational opportunities and social equity, while acknowledging and respecting the important context of First Nations governance and cultural traditions.

Today’s award winners are two exemplary individuals who are known for their extraordinary contributions to the Native community. Jaris Swidrovich and Brian Parisee, you are both part of a long line of distinguished students who have brought to our University a generous spirit of community service. In so doing, you have enriched our academic community as well as the larger community beyond our walls.

You have helped to establish and maintain important networks between the University and Aboriginal communities in Toronto and beyond. You have demonstrated an exceptional ability to balance academic achievement and the demands of a degree program with community engagement and service. And you’ve shown remarkable creativity and ingenuity in aligning your personal, educational goals with the needs of Aboriginal communities.

‘Giving back to the community’ is, of course, a long-standing and widely held tenet of many First Nations. It also aligns perfectly with one of my top priorities—to see the University of Toronto further embrace and engage the city around us, and continue to develop outreach and practical partnerships with local communities. This will generate more learning and research opportunities for our students and faculty, but also more benefit to our local partners.

And so I am particularly delighted to celebrate the success of Jaris and Brian, who are exemplars of how this may be accomplished. On behalf of the University of Toronto, I thank you, Jaris and Brian, for your dedication and hard work.

And I congratulate you warmly on your extraordinary contributions.

Thank you.