The Very Reverend, The Honourable Dr. Lois Wilson is a champion of social justice and religious understanding who has devoted her life to public service and social activism. From her early days in the United Church ministry, through her years of international service, to her term in the Senate of Canada, Dr. Wilson has worked passionately as a defender and promoter of human rights. As an author, minister, international diplomat and parliamentarian, Dr. Wilson has worked tirelessly for the goal of creating a more peaceful and tolerant world.
Lois Wilson is a ground breaker for women and for all Canadians, opening important doors so others could follow her lead and, like her, work to change the world. Dr. Wilson was the first woman to be President of the Canadian Council of Churches (1976-1979) as well as the first woman to be Moderator of the United Church of Canada (1980-1982). She is also the first Canadian to be the President of the World Council of Churches (1983-1990) and the first woman to be Chancellor of Lakehead University (1991-2000).
Since earning her Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Manitoba in 1947, Lois Wilson has continued on a path of lifelong learning and achievement. The author of several books and many articles, Dr. Wilson has received numerous honourary degrees in Divinity and Laws from universities and colleges across Canada and in the United States.
Dr. Wilson was ordained a United Church minister in 1965, and shared a team ministry with her husband, The Reverend Dr. Roy Wilson, for fifteen years. As President of both the Canadian and World Council of Churches, Dr. Wilson engaged in extensive visits to churches in Asia, Latin America, India and Africa. She monitored elections in El Salvador and Mexico, and developed a profound knowledge of the challenges facing the developing world. As a leading advocate of international human rights, Dr. Wilson proudly represented Canada on the world stage. She became actively involved in Amnesty International and with the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security. In addition, Dr. Wilson served as Chair of the Board of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development.
In 1998, Lois Wilson was appointed to the Senate of Canada, where she served as an Independent member until her retirement in 2002 at age 75. In the Senate, she led Government delegations to China and North Korea, served as Canada's Special Envoy to the Sudan, and founded the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights.
Dr. Wilson won the World Federalist Peace Prize and Canada's Pearson Peace Medal. Previously an Officer of the Order of Canada, she is one of the few Canadians to be promoted to the top rank of Companion. She is also a Member of the Order of Ontario.
From her home base in Toronto, Dr. Wilson remains as active as ever. As well as being a Senior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto, and Ecumenist in Residence at The Toronto School of Theology, Dr. Wilson is currently Chair of the Canada-DPR Korea Association, which is committed to mutual understanding between Canadians and North Koreans. She is also a member of the Public Review Board of the CAW and a Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Finally, Lois Wilson continues to serve as the Acting President of the World Federalist Movement, a position she assumed in 2004 after the death of WFM President Sir Peter Ustinov.
A mother of four and grandmother of 12, an internationally renowned human rights activist, and a committed public servant, The Very Reverend, The Honourable Dr. Lois Wilson is a truly remarkable woman. It is our great fortune, in Canada and the world, that Dr. Wilson remains an active scholar and an outspoken voice for the values of tolerance, peace, and mutual respect.
-citation delivered by Dr. Richard Sigurdson, Dean, Faculty of Arts