Graydon Nicholas, lawyer, lecturer, judge, Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick was born at Tobique in 1946. Of Maliseet descent, Graydon Nicholas made significant strides in the fields of law and public service. He was the first Aboriginal person to obtain a law degree in Atlantic Canada, the first Aboriginal judge in New Brunswick, and the first Aboriginal person to be named Lieutenant-Governor in the province.
Born and raised on the Tobique Indian Reserve, two months prematurely after his mother fell through the ice of the Tobique River, Nicholas had difficult early years in school as he struggled to learn English as a second language. Following high school Nicholas relocated to Antigonish, Nova Scotia to attend St. Francis University, where he obtained a bachelor of science degree. He followed it with a law degree from the University of New Brunswick in 1971, and in 1974 he added a master’s degree in social work from Wilfred Laurier University to his academic achievements.
Upon graduation Graydon Nicholas accepted a position with the Union of New Brunswick Indians, where he served in various capacities for 12 years including as its president from 1980 to 1988. In 1989 he was appointed chair of St Thomas University’s Native Studies program, where he also lectured part time. All the while Nicholas continued his interest in the legal profession, maintaining active status in the New Brunswick Law Society, the Indigenous Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association.
On 31 May 1991 he was given the historic honour of being the first Aboriginal judicial appointee to the bench in New Brunswick. During this time he also served as the co-facilitator of the Task Force on Aboriginal Issues in New Brunswick, which dealt with issues such as logging rights in the province. As an active participant in Aboriginal Christian life, he lectured in theology at the Vancouver School of Theology and the Native Ministries Consortium program. On 30 Sept 2009 Graydon was appointed the 30th Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, the first Aboriginal person to receive the honour.
Graydon Nicholas has received numerous awards for his contributions to public life, 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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