In the conferring of an Honorary Degree on the Honourable Yvon Dumont, the University honours an institution as well as a man.
The importance of the office of Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba has long been acknowledged by the University through the conferring of honorary degrees on the incumbents. While acknowledging the symbolic importance of this great office of state, the University also acknowledges the real and substantive importance of continuity and ordered constitutional processes as essential underpinnings of a civil society, in which genuine liberty is valued and real human progress is possible. As the Canadian scholar Frank Mackinnon has written:
"The Crown is an elusive phenomenon and a practical institution of government. To some it seems like an old family ghost that has lingered for centuries doing little but making its presence felt. To others it is a remarkable political invention that makes much government action possible, fruitful and tolerable. The Crown is still more than that. It is is an institution at the summit of the state designed to limit the problems of wielding political power and to assist the interplay of human characteristics among officials and citizens, which are the real but unpredictable forces in public life...'God save the Queen,' (says MacKinnon) really means 'God help us to govern ourselves'."
What these words address is the importance of a public institution devoted, not to the political questions or interests of the moment, but to embodying and upholding the rules and conventions within which, as a community, we take our collective decisions. In our system, that responsibility is vested in the Crown and is lodged, in Manitoba, in the office of Lieutenant-Governor.
In the Honourable Yvon Dumont, we have a man who represents that institution and embodies its traditions.
Yvon Dumont was born in St. Laurent Manitoba in 1951, one of twelve children born to William Dumont and Therese Chartrand. While still in his teens he became active in the Manitoba Metis Federation. Beginning in 1972 he held a number of senior offices in the Federation and, in the same period, served as a founding vice-president of the Native Council of Canada.
In parallel with these activities, Mr. Dumont served as a member of the Municipal Council of the Rural Municipality of St. Laurent and as a member of the Board of Governors of this University. He has been active in several small businesses and served as a member of the national division of the Aboriginal Economic Development Board.
In 1984 Yvon Dumont was elected president of the Manitoba Metis Federation to which position he was subsequently re-elected on three occasions. Mr Dumont served as president of a major aboriginal organization during a time of rapid change in, and increasing awareness of, issues facing aboriginal people. For much of the modern period, indeed, the Metis people have been marginalized and underappreciated. As a minority community they have suffered from both prejudice and neglect. Yet in 1992 both the Parliament of Canada and the Legislative assembly of Manitoba acknowledged the Metis as being among the founders of Manitoba. In the processes which contributed to a greater understanding of the Metis people and of their place in the history of Manitoba, Yvon Dumont proved a prominent and an effective advocate.
Over time, the nature of that advocacy came to encompass both provincial and national issues. Mr. Dumont played a role in achieving recognition of aboriginal issues in Manitoba and beyond. During his presidency, the Federation participated in both the First Ministers Conference on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters, and on the constitutional discussions of this period, which encompassed both the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords.
In 1993, in recognition of his significant contribution to the Metis people and, through them, to the wider community, Yvon Dumont was named the 21st Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba.
Yvon Dumont, though a comparatively young man, has had a long career of service to the people of Manitoba and to the Metis people within it. To that career of service he brought dedication and determination. Those qualities were recognized in his appointment as the Queen's representative in Manitoba, and to that office he has applied himself with diligence and dignity.