New Scholarship Honours Senator Don Oliver’s 50-Year Commitment to Fostering and Promoting Diversity, Equity and Justice
October 10, 2023 – HALIFAX, N.S. – Dalhousie University is pleased to announce the launch of the new Senator Don Oliver Scholarship, which will provide financial support as well as access to mentoring advice to African Nova Scotian students. The scholarship was created in honour of Oliver’s efforts to fight anti-Black systemic racism in Canada by his friend, entrepreneur, financier, and investor Wade Dawe.
“The main purpose is to engage Black people throughout Nova Scotia who faced obstacles in pursuing a university education,” said Oliver (LLB’64, LLD’03). “Anything that Wade and I can do to remove barriers and help make that happen is for the good of the province and Canada.”
The scholarship recognizes Oliver’s fight for white acceptance of diversity, equity and justice, which has resulted in meaningful societal change. As a first-year law student, he helped amend the bill that became the Fair Accommodation Practices Act, which made it illegal to deny anyone access to public spaces based on skin colour. That became the launch point for extensive social justice work both in his practice and as Canada’s first Black male senator, resulting in laws to protect women, children, the disabled, and visible minorities. He was also a change agent and did extensive work in teaching corporate Canada “The Business Case for Diversity.”
These efforts have earned Oliver many medals and awards, including the Order of Canada, the Order of Nova Scotia, King’s Counsel honours and the Dalhousie Schulich School of Law’s 2023 Weldon Award for Unselfish Public Service.
“Senator Oliver has dedicated his career and life to fighting racism and promoting equality,” said Dawe, chair and CEO of Numus Financial Inc. “While receiving an Oliver Scholarship does not rectify the injustices of the past four hundred years, it will enable young Black students to continue walking the path that Senator Oliver has so courageously opened for them.”
Barbara Hamilton-Hinch, PhD, Associate Professor, Recreation and Leisure Studies, Assistant Vice‑Provost Equity and Inclusion, and member of the Steering Committee of the African Nova Scotian Advisory Council, said the scholarship will provide vital support for Dalhousie’s commitment to fostering a culture grounded in equity and inclusiveness.
“Our goal is to offer a welcoming environment and outstanding academic programs to talented students from all cultural backgrounds,” said Dr. Hamilton-Hinch. “We are grateful to Wade Dawe for creating this scholarship, which will make it possible for African Nova Scotian students to blaze their own trails in the academic and career paths they choose, and to tackle the pressing issues we face, just as Senator Oliver has done.”
Having committed $1M to establish the scholarship, Dawe’s lead gift will advance the education of Black youth in Nova Scotia. Donations can be made here. The first scholarship is scheduled to be awarded in 2024. Oliver believes it could inspire recipients to consider postgraduate education and research, which would be transformative for them and for Canada.
“I am hoping these African Nova Scotian students will learn, research, and write about their history,” he says. “More than that, I hope they use that work to make the case for diversity and to effect change. That would make me very happy.”