Lieutenant-Governor Graydon Nicholas

Editorial Comment - Daniel N. Paul, September 13, 2009

Congratulations to Graydon Nicholas, a member of the Maliseet First Nation, for his appointment as New Brunswick’s next Lieutenant-Governor!

Inclusion. As an indication of how disadvantaged First Nations Peoples in Atlantic Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland-Labrador) were until very recently, and still are in many respects, it has been only in the last 49 years that we’ve managed to reach some milestones in modern society, firsts - doctor, lawyer, engineer, judge, justice of the peace, politician, and so on. Now, the federal government, with the recommendation of New Brunswick, has appointed Graydon Nicholas, a member of the Maliseet First Nation, to the office of Lieutenant-Governor.

New Brunswick has been a trail blazer in moving toward inclusion of First Nation Peoples in it’s system, its time for the other Atlantic Provinces to use it's example as a role model and start making a genuine effort to include our Peoples in their systems.


A historic choice for Lieutenant-Governor

Published Friday September 11th, 2009

Telegraph Journal - New Brunswick, Canada

OTTAWA - Judge Graydon Nicholas, a gentle man much-admired for being a role model to a generation of Maliseet and Mi'kmaq, will be the province's first aboriginal lieutenant-governor.

The historic choice generated accolades from many quarters Thursday, praise across party lines for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for choosing him - and no little excitement.

"Wow!" said St. Mary's First Nation band councillor Allan Polchies Jr., minutes after Nicholas' appointment became official.

"I'm sending emails to everyone right now.

"Seeing a First Nations person given this opportunity inspires me and I'm 39, and a leader in my community.

"When young people see a First Nations person attain this through his hard work and through giving back, it will be huge.

"It allows them to dream - and to dream big."

Nicholas, who met privately with Harper in his office in Ottawa on Thursday, "is still floating," said Tim Richardson of the lieutenant-governor's office in Fredericton, who spoke with him by phone.

"He's elated and he's very humbled."

Once he's sworn in, Nicholas will live in the historic Government House official residence in Fredericton.

He'll take on a busy schedule representing Queen Elizabeth II in the province - and building bridges between its residents and communities.

Nicholas, a Maliseet born and raised in Tobique First Nation, became in 1971 the first aboriginal person in Atlantic Canada to earn a law degree.

He also earned a graduate degree in social work then worked with the Union of New Brunswick Indians for 12 years in different capacities.

In 1991, he achieved another historic first when he was appointed a judge of the provincial court.

That appointment made him the first aboriginal judge from the Maritimes and much of New England, the traditional territory of the Wabanaki confederacy of tribes, which includes the Mi'kmaq and the Maliseet.

He had previously practised law in Fredericton and taught native studies at St. Thomas University.

In 1999, he co-chaired a task force on aboriginal issues - with a focus on logging rights - with retired Supreme Court of Canada judge Gerard La Forest.

He has received a number of awards for his leadership and community service, including the New Brunswick Human Rights Award and two honorary degrees.

He is also a committed man of faith described in a backgrounder from Harper's office as "an active participant in the Christian Life Community," a Roman Catholic group, and he has lectured at a theological college.

"Judge Nicholas has an impressive record of public leadership both on the bench and within the community," Harper said in a statement.

"His long-time dedication to improving the lives of First Nations peoples in New Brunswick is both impressive and inspiring.

"He is a tremendous role model for any aboriginal youth who dream of pursuing a career in law or public service."

Harper appointed him after consulting with both Premier Shawn Graham and Tory Opposition leader David Alward.

Last spring, Graham went public with his letter to Harper singling out Nicholas as his recommendation.

Going public provoked criticism of Graham from some Conservatives who thought it was a breach of protocol. Harper himself stayed out of the fray.

Harper then asked both party leaders to compile a short list that reflected a consensus.

"I could not be more proud today of our prime minister and his choice in selecting Graydon Nicholas as the 30th lieutenant-governor for our province," Graham told reporters in Fredericton.

"He wanted an individual who was non-partisan in nature and today he has honoured that commitment."

Graham called Nicholas "an outstanding individual who brings many attributes to this role.

"His choice is historic."

"He's a tremendous man of integrity and a wonderful communicator," said Alward. "I believe he'll do an outstanding job reaching out to New Brunswickers.

"It's a real opportunity for Mr. Nicholas to build bridges and that's what this role is all about."

Andy Scott, the former Liberal minister of Indian affairs and northern development, said "it's an extraordinarily thoughtful appointment" because of Nicholas's qualities and because of its timing.

"In this period of national reconciliation, I can't think of anybody better to hold the position," said Scott.

"I believe the position can serve as a beacon around a very important period of Canadian history as we go through the process that flows from the residential schools apology."

Former provincial justice minister T.J. Burke, who is also from Tobique First Nation, has described Nicholas as his mentor and role model.

"He really is a hero to many and a symbol of excellence," said Burke.

Scott and Nicholas had been co-chairing an advisory committee for provincial ombudsman and child and youth advocate Bernard Richard, whose office is shining a spotlight on First Nations child welfare.

Scott said he expected his role would simply carry on without Nicholas.

New Brunswick has tended to alternate between anglophones and francophones in the vice-regal role.

Nicholas speaks Maliseet as well as English, but he does not speak French.

"He has expressed a willingness to learn and the hope that francophone New Brunswickers will be patient with him," said Richardson.

Lieutenants-governor typically serve a five-year term.

Nicholas will succeed Herménégilde Chiasson, the celebrated Acadian poet and writer whose term Harper had extended by a year.

That allowed Chiasson to stay on during the recent World Acadian Congress.

Nicholas and his wife Elizabeth have two sons.

Born in 1946, Nicholas was scheduled to retire from the bench in about a year-and-a-half.

A Who's Who in Canada listing names his interests as cross-country skiing and bowling.

Ontario and British Columbia have both had aboriginal lieutenant-governors.

- with files from Chris Morris



Written by Pat Paul, the publisher and editor of the Wulustuk Times

TOBIQUE FIRST NATION, NB, - (Special) September 13, 2009

The official announcement by the Premier of New Brunswick, Shawn Graham and Prime Minister of Canada Harper, confirmed that a native person, Judge Graydon Nicholas, 63, will be the next Lieutenant-Governor in this province. The announcement came as a total surprise to many and mostly to Graydon Nicholas himself. His term of office would likely begin around the autumn months of 2009 when the retiring Lt. Governor Hermenegilde Chaisson, a noted Acadian poet, is scheduled to step down from that office.

At the first announcement of the appointment the good news sped across the country like a bolt of lightening commenting that for the first time in history an aboriginal person is being appointed as lieutenant governor in New Brunswick.

Judge Nicholas met with the Prime Minister Harper in Ottawa during the first week of September 2009 for the purpose of officially confirming the PM’s endorsement of Judge Nicholas as the next Lieutenant-Governor for New Brunswick.

Graydon Nicholas has however clearly and undoubtedly earned his keep and entitlement to the position and is being duly honoured for the many years of hard and devoted work and service he has given to the province.

During his early years in public life Graydon Nicholas served his people as the president of the Union of New Brunswick Indians where he demonstrated a unique style of leadership while at the same time advancing the native cause and agenda to a very visible profile. Through his steadfast efforts, the social, political and economic landscapes for native people rose in considerable proportions. Equally, the overall stature of the native community gained greater recognition and improved its relationship with the province.

Through his early training, Mr. Nicholas completed several years of legal practicum under the watchful eye of a reputable avocate in Grand Falls, NB where many of his fine qualities were nurtured and defined.

After that learning experience, he became a regular counsel and lawyer primarily for native clients from across the province where again his keen insight and diligent tendering to every detail in every case paid off handsomely for the youthful counsel which in the end paid dividends for his clients.

Over the years as a lawyer Mr. Nicholas adhered to a strong sense of fairness, justice and fair play, plus acquired a deep respect and belief in the Canadian system of law.

Through those basic principles, aboriginals now enjoy improved services and relations with the justice systems across the land. The typical stereotyping and racial stances that once prevailed have been reduced to minimum as a result.

During the past several years on the bench Judge Nicholas’ has blazed a unique direction which now is been duly recognized and thus has brought him to a position unprecedented in this province.

Largely, he has made use of his fine qualities of excellence in every way, whether on the street, his office or in court, regardless of the race, creed, colour or circumstances of those who appeared before him.

With that integrity in hand, Judge Graydon Nicholas has been lauded and acclaimed by his peers, friends and the people of New Brunswick as a man of distinction and a person of rare qualities unmatched by a few.

Undoubtedly these are marks of uniqueness that Premier Graham and Prime Minister Harper took into account when considering Judge Graydon Nicholas as the next Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick.

Upon the confirmation, it is with pride, and our privilege to extend to Graydon Nicholas, our brother, cousin and member of the Tobique First Nation, best wishes and godspeed in his new endeavour!


History was made in Fredericton on Wednesday, September 30, 2009, when Graydon Nicholas, a member of the Maliseet First Nation, was sworn in as New Brunswick's first lieutenant-governor.


CBC News - July 1, 2010

New Brunswick's lieutenant-governor says it could take another two generations before First Nations find their place in Canada.

Graydon Nicholas, the province's first lieutenant-governor of aboriginal descent, said in an interview that national efforts such as the federal government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission are making progress but there's still a long way to go to heal old wounds with the First Nations community.

In an interview with CBC News, he noted it was only 50 years ago that natives got the right to vote federally and provincially without losing their status.

'It's going to take more than 10 years, believe me it's going to take 20, probably two more generations, before people realize there is a rightful place for aboriginals in this country.' — Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas

And two years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to former students of residential schools.

All of these individual decisions are important, but Nicholas said more must be done to change attitudes within First Nations communities and in Canada as a whole.

"Canada has to come to terms with some kind of reconciliation. It's easy to say you're sorry — the proof in the pudding is — are you sincere?" he said, adding that it will take a long time before attitudes finally change.

"It's going to take more than 10 years, believe me it's going to take 20, probably two more generations, before people realize there is a rightful place for aboriginals in this country and they're not going to go away," he said.

Social organizations

For the progress that Nicholas said is possible, there needs to be a widespread change in attitude in various social institutions.

"The reconciliation has to involve all aspects of life. We're talking about spirituality, the churches. We're talking about the political process at the federal and provincial level," he said.

"We're talking about our democratic institutions, for example, the military as well as the police forces who were all part of ... removing the spirit of the aboriginal people in this country."

Nicholas said he's also hoping First Nations will work with government and others to resolve issues and move forward together.

In 2008, the federal government offered $1.9-billion in compensation to former students of residential schools.

Nicholas said reconciliation means more than just financial reparations.

Home   Web Site Map