This article originally appeared on Dal News on November 13, 2020.

Many remarkable Nova Scotians have received the Order of Nova Scotia since the award was established in 2001, including former Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Mayann Francis (LLD’16), singer-songwriter Rita MacNeil and Mi’kmaq activist Nora Bernard.

On Monday (Nov. 9), two Dalhousie alumni joined the ranks of these outstanding and dedicated individuals: the Honourable Dr. Donald Oliver (LLB’64, LLD’03) and Shawna Y. Paris-Hoyte (BA’78, LLB’94, BSW’01, MSW’03).

Dr. Oliver of Wolfville is a human rights activist, lawyer, and former senator. During his time on the Canadian Senate, he was unanimously elected to the position of Speaker Pro Tempore and chaired the fisheries, rules, transport, national finance, and legal and constitutional committees. In addition to his paid work as a civil litigator and senator, Dr. Oliver volunteered heavily for more than 25 charitable organizations across the province. He continues to serve his community through his work on the board of the Black North Initiative. And he was instrumental in the establishment of the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie.

The Order of Nova Scotia is the most recent in the abundance of awards received by Dr. Oliver, including an appointment to the Order of Canada earlier this year. These awards celebrate Dr. Oliver’s wide range of accomplishments and contributions, however, it’s Dr. Oliver’s fifty years of human rights activism that have set him apart. His citation describes him as “a fearless trailblazer in breaking down barriers of racism and intolerance and promoting principles of pluralism, diversity, and inclusion in aspects of both the public and private sectors in Nova Scotia and around the globe.”

Improving the lives of Nova Scotians

Born in New Glasgow and raised in Truro, Paris-Hoyte has also made significant contributions to social justice and law, in addition to her efforts as a social worker and educator. In all of these areas, Paris-Hoyte has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of Nova Scotians.

Among her many achievements, Paris-Hoyte’s work was instrumental in the R. v. LTH case, a Supreme Court case that resulted in added protection for youth who are asked to waive their rights. She’s also a highly effective facilitator; not only did Paris-Hoyte launch the discussions that led to the formation of the Black Community Advocates Association of Nova Scotia (BCAANS), she also facilitated the first Black Inmates Forum.

Like Dr. Oliver, Paris-Hoyte has also received a number of awards and honours that recognize her exemplary work. In addition to the Order of Nova Scotia, these awards include a Queen’s Counsel, a Treasury Board of Canada Service Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Black Law Students’ Association of Canada (BLSAC) and more.

According to her citation, Paris-Hoyte “has worked tirelessly in public service and volunteer work in support of the Nova Scotian community. She is a zealous advocate for the human rights of women, children, youth, families, and the Black community.”