Billy-Ray Belcourt—Congratulations on Rhodes ScholarshipPublished on 10 December 2015 Hansard and Statements by Senator Lillian Eva Dyck
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, I rise today to congratulate Billy-Ray Belcourt as one of the recipients of the 2016 Rhodes Scholarship for study at the University of Oxford. Although it was reported that Billy-Ray is the first First Nations person in Canada to receive the Rhodes Scholarship, he is actually the second First Nations person to receive this prestigious scholarship. Kathy-Anne Gabrielle Hughes, a member of the Mi’kmaq community in Newfoundland and Labrador, was the first First Nations student to receive the scholarship in 2011.
Billy-Ray currently attends the University of Alberta and is completing his bachelor’s degree in comparative literature. Originally from the Driftpile First Nation north of Edmonton, he lived both on and off reserve and was raised by his grandparents. He is the president of the Aboriginal Students Council at the University of Alberta, an active member of various university communities and a published author. At Oxford, Belcourt plans to focus on the effects of colonialism on indigenous people’s health.
In an interview, he said:
I just want First Nations students in particular to be able to see me in the news, for example, or giving talks at conferences or in communities, and think they can achieve the same things that I have.
In his application for the scholarship, Belcourt said he argued:
. . . that this wasn’t just about me — it was for my community and for all Indigenous people in Canada to be able to see someone like them winning something like this.
Billy-Ray has set an extraordinary example for those First Nations students. Congratulations, Billy-Ray, and all the best in your studies at Oxford next year.