UNB Law welcomes Graydon Nicholas as Wihkwatacamit

Author: Ed Bowes

Posted on Aug 30, 2021

Category: Alumni

The Hon. Graydon Nicholas

The Hon. Graydon Nicholas, C.M., O.N.B., LL.D. will be visiting UNB Law this year on a part-time basis. Graydon, as he would like us to call him, is a distinguished and highly respected Wolastoqey Elder, lawyer, judge, social worker, and activist. He is originally from Tobique First Nation, which is 180 kilometers northwest of Fredericton.

Graydon’s title will be Wihkwatacamit (week-ah-dutch-mid), a Wolastoqey word that means “the person who loves to tell stories”. This title aptly reflects Graydon’s personality, as well as the way in which local Indigenous culture and traditions, including legal norms and practices, are communicated.

Graydon will serve as a mentor and resource for students and faculty as they engage with subjects related to the Indigenous experience in Canada. In particular, he will be involved with Foundations of Law by helping to provide the historical and social context underlying Canada’s colonial legal system. In addition, he will be available to advise faculty members wishing to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and legal traditions into their courses. Graydon will also guest lecture in courses on topics related to his areas of expertise, which include criminal law, aboriginal law, property law, and constitutional law. Graydon will also continue his advocacy and law reform work on behalf of Indigenous communities across Canada with the help of UNB Law students.

Graydon is no stranger to UNB Law. A graduate of the class of 1971, he is the first Indigenous person in Atlantic Canada to earn a law degree. As a lawyer with the Union of New Brunswick Indians from 1974 until 1988, he was counsel in many important cases involving the rights of Indigenous Peoples. These include the landmark Supreme Court case of Simon v. The Queen, [1985] 2 SRC 387, which recognized that the Treaty of 1752 remained in force and effect, and rejected the notion that Indigenous Peoples had to prove direct descendancy in order to be covered by the Treaty.

In 1991, Graydon was appointed judge of the New Brunswick Provincial Court, becoming the first Indigenous person to assume this role. As a judge for 18 years, he developed particular expertise in criminal law and was a champion of restorative justice principles. In 1999, along with fellow UNB Law alumnus the Hon. Gérard La Forest, Graydon co-authored the Report of the New Brunswick Task Force on Aboriginal Issues.

In 2009, Graydon was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, the first Indigenous person to hold this office. He was the Endowed Chair of Native Studies at St. Thomas University from 1988 to 1991, and was reappointed to this role in 2015. In 2020, he became Chancellor of St. Thomas University. He has honourary degrees from four universities: St. Francis Xavier, Mt. Allison, Wilfred Laurier, and UNB.

Most recently, Graydon was appointed Co-Chair of the Stakeholder Advisory Council for the Youth Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Services Review. He is a member of the Order of New Brunswick and the Order of Canada.

Please join me in welcoming Graydon to UNB Law!

Michael Marin
Dean and Associate Professor