By Marianne Curtis
Provencher MP Vic Toews was recently honoured by the faculty and students with an honorary doctorate despite strong objections from students.
On October 17, Toews was presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Winnipeg.
Toews graduated from The University of Winnipeg in 1973 with a B.A. in History.
“I am honoured by this great distinction,” said Toews. “Throughout my life, the education I received at The University of Winnipeg has served me well in my private life and through my many years of public service. I couldn’t be more proud to be an alumni of this great institution.”
While he was honored with the doctorate, Toews moment was darkened by a peaceful group of protestors that attended the event and a scathing valedictorian address.
The protest highlighted Toews’ opposition to same-sex marriage and to the inclusion of sexuality as a protected category under hate speech laws, among other issues. The protesters were eventually allowed inside the Duckworth Centre, but had to leave their signs outside.
A few students spoke out against the actions of the roughly 40 protesters, but there were no incidents.
Valedictorian Erin Larson expressed her displeasure with the decision during her speech to graduates, saying she was not proud to share the same stage with Toews.
“While I’m immensely proud to be an alumnus of the University of Winnipeg and extremely honoured to have been selected valedictorian, I have to admit I’m not proud to share the stage with everyone who is on it today,” Larson said in her address. “I feel the University of Winnipeg has recently suffered a profound loss of integrity due to the actions of the administration.”
Despite the controversy Toews commended the University of Winnipeg, under the leadership of Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, for the work being done recently to open the University’s doors to the community, and for breaking down barriers between the university and the neighbourhood that surrounds it.
“I’m mindful that on such an auspicious occasion I should be humbled at receiving this award, and I am,” Toews said. “But I don’t want to appear too humble in case all of you think ‘If he is admitting he is so undeserving of this honour, then why did we give it to him anyway?’ Indeed it already appears there are a few who have asked that question today.”
Toews added that he was proud to be share the honour with his family and friends o attended the ceremony including his own mother who despite the challenges of age attended the ceremony.