Graydon Nicholas, a Maliseet descendant, was born in Tobique in 1946 and has made remarkable contributions to law and public service. As the first Indigenous person to earn a law degree in Atlantic Canada, the first Indigenous judge in New Brunswick, and the first Indigenous Lieutenant-Governor in the province, his achievements are exceptional.
Growing up on the Tobique Indian Reserve, Nicholas faced challenges in his early schooling years, learning English as a second language. After high school, he moved to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, to attend St. Francis University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree. He then pursued a law degree at the University of New Brunswick in 1971 and completed a Master’s degree in Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University in 1974.
Nicholas began his career with the Union of New Brunswick Indians, serving in various roles, including as president from 1980 to 1988. In 1989, he was appointed chair of St. Thomas University’s Native Studies program and also lectured part-time. Nicholas remained active in the legal field, maintaining memberships in the New Brunswick Law Society, the Indigenous Bar Association, and the Canadian Bar Association.
On May 31, 1991, he made history as the first Indigenous judicial appointee in New Brunswick. During this time, he also co-facilitated the Task Force on Aboriginal Issues in New Brunswick, addressing concerns such as logging rights. As a devoted participant in Indigenous Christian life, he lectured in theology at the Vancouver School of Theology and the Native Ministries Consortium program. On September 30, 2009, Nicholas was appointed the 30th Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, becoming the first Indigenous person to hold the position.
Graydon Nicholas has been recognized with numerous awards for his public service, including the Fredericton YMCA Peace Medallion, the New Brunswick Human Rights Award, the Canada 125 Medal, and the Greenblatt-Shore Distinguished Graduate Award from the University of New Brunswick Law School. He has also received honorary law degrees from St. Francis Xavier University and Sir Wilfrid Laurier University.
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