Dr. Bernie Francis, Doctor of Civil Law, Honoris Causa
Author, Linguist, Advocate
A thoughtful and passionate voice for the Mi'kmaw people, Dr. Bernie Francis, along with his mentor and friend, Doug Smith, helped preserve the Mi’kmaw language through an easy-to-learn orthography, which is officially recognized by Mi’kmaw chiefs across the province and by the Canada-Nova Scotia-Mi’kmaw Tripartite Forum.
Raised in Cape Breton’s Maupeltu (Membertou) First Nation, Dr. Francis initiated Nova Scotia’s Court Worker Program (CWP). Facing opposition and some harassment, he worked for five years to establish the CWP to ensure the fair and proper treatment of Mi’kmaw people within the provincial and federal court systems.
Dr. Francis, a Grand Chief Donald Marshall Senior Memorial Elder Award recipient, later introduced a Mi’kmaw Language Studies Program at Cape Breton University. He also visited First Nations’ communities across the Atlantic provinces, helping teachers produce curriculum materials.
An author of academic articles on Mi’kmaw law, Mi’kmaw spirituality, the conceptual differences of thought between Mi’kmaw People and Europeans and books explaining Mi’kmaw tradition and language, Dr. Francis has contributed to the Saint Mary's University community through participation in numerous colloquia, seminars, and conferences.
As a published storyteller and successful linguist, Dr. Francis has expanded people’s understanding of the Mi'kmaw language and geographical vision of traditional Mi’kmaw territory, including Nova Scotia. His work has contributed so much to the appreciation of Mi'kma'ki – even among his own people.
Pride has arisen in leaps and bounds, raising great hope for future generations of the First Peoples of this land, Mi’kma’ki!