Claudette Commanda becomes 1st Indigenous Chancellor of the University of Ottawa

OTTAWA, Canada (June 23, 2022) – The University of Ottawa is proud to appoint First Nations activist Claudette Commanda as the first Indigenous leader to be named Chancellor in the university’s 174-year history.

Ms. Commanda, an Algonquin Anishinaabe from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, will become the 15th – and third female chancellor – on November 9, 2022. She will succeed Calin Rovinescu, whose second term will end in the fall.

“This means honour, pride, and happiness to me, but it also means bringing the validation and recognition that Algonquin people have so much to contribute, and we continue to contribute. It’s so meaningful and I’m so honoured to be chosen for this position,” said Ms. Commanda, who walked onto uOttawa’s campus as a student in 1987 and, unknowingly, into a lifelong commitment.

“I am delighted to announce the appointment of Claudette Commanda, who is a well-known member of our community. She will continue bringing her leadership, passion, and wisdom, on behalf of Indigenous peoples to the University as a whole. Claudette holds degrees from the uOttawa Faculty of Arts (’93) and the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section (’97), and was inducted into the Common Law Honour Society in 2009,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Frémont.

During her studies, she founded a First Nations student association to improve their representation on campus. She established an Indigenous resource centre at the university, now called the Mashkawazìwogamig Indigenous Resource Centre.

“From that point on, we were active in raising awareness and I committed to giving back to the university because this university has always been supportive,” said Ms. Commanda. “This honour provides an opportunity to build a very strong, enhanced relationship between the University and Indigenous communities, especially with Algonquin communities.”

A dedicated and inspiring mentor, Ms. Commanda went on to teach at the Institute of Women’s Studies, the Faculty of Law, and the Faculty of Education. With the Indigenous Studies program, she taught courses on First Nations Women, Native Education, First Nations people and History, and Indigenous Traditions and Decolonization.

In 2017, Claudette Commanda became the first ever Elder in Residence appointed to the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. She also served as Special Adviser on Reconciliation to the Dean of the Faculty of Law. She is the first, First Nation heritage member to be named to the University’s Board of Governors.

Ms. Commanda, who received the 2020 Indspire Award for culture, heritage and spirituality, wants to continue the university’s historic support around reconciliation when she steps into the new role.

The University of Ottawa wants to thank Calin Rovinescu for his unwavering service since assuming the role of chancellor in 2015. His tenure will be celebrated in the fall, when his second mandate will come to an end.

The nomination of the new chancellor results from an open and transparent selection process. The chancellor is appointed by the Board of Governors with the concurrence of the Senate and holds office for four years, with eligibility for re-appointment. The chancellor is the titular head of the University and is accorded the place of honour at Convocation and other functions.

Learn more on the selection of the chancellor.

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