University of the Fraser Valley

UFV to grant honorary degrees to Bonnie Henry, Naxaxalhts’i Sonny McHalsie, Mike Retasket, and Judith Soon

UFV to grant honorary degrees to Bonnie Henry, Naxaxalhts’i Sonny McHalsie, Mike Retasket, and Judith Soon

UFV will present honorary degrees to four leaders who have had a significant impact on society and their communities at its Convocation ceremonies in June.

They include Dr. Bonnie Henry, who led British Columbia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic; Naxaxalhts’i Sonny McHalsie, one of the most distinguished interpreters of the Stó:lō cultural tradition and history; Mike Retasket, a renowned dancer, drummer, political leader, negotiator, cultural interpreter and traditional Secwépemc knowledge keeper; and Dr. Judith Soon, a pharmacist dedicated to science education who helped establish the Fraser Valley Regional

Dr. Bonnie Henry, Doctor of Laws

Well known for leading our province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in her position as Provincial Health Officer of BC, Dr. Bonnie Henry has had a long and varied career in public health, serving on the frontlines of several serious disease outbreaks.

She is the first woman to hold the Provincial Health Officer position in British Columbia.

Dr. Henry’s interest in public health, preventative medicine, and global pandemics has been a common thread throughout her career.

While completing her degree from Dalhousie University, she joined the Canadian Armed Forces. Employed by the Naval Reserves as a Naval Warfare Officer, she spent 10 years showcasing how women can excel in the military sector.

Prior to her current role, Dr. Henry was the deputy provincial health officer in British Columbia for three years. She also served as the interim provincial executive medical director of the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). She has worked internationally including with the WHO/UNICEF polio eradication program in Pakistan and with the World Health Organization to control the Ebola outbreak in Uganda.

She was the medical director of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control and Public Health Emergency Management with the BCCDC and medical director for the provincial emerging and vector-borne diseases program, as well as a provincial program for surveillance and control of healthcare associated infections from 2005 to 2014.

During her time as associate medical officer of Health with Toronto Public Health, she was responsible for the Emergency Services Unit and the Communicable Disease Liaison Unit. In 2003, she was the operational lead in the response to the SARS outbreak in Toronto.

Dr. Henry is a specialist in public health and preventive medicine and is board certified in preventive medicine in the U.S. She graduated from Dalhousie Medical School and completed a Master of Public Health in San Diego, as well as residency training in preventive medicine at University of California, San Diego and in community medicine at University of Toronto.

She has worked internationally including with the WHO/UNICEF polio eradication program in Pakistan and with the World Health Organization to control the Ebola outbreak in Uganda.

Dr. Henry will be recognized at the Thursday, June 15 morning ceremony at 9:30 am. She will appear via pre-recorded video.

Albert (Sonny) McHalsie (Naxaxalhts’i), Doctor of Letters

Naxaxalhts’i is not an academic in the traditional Western sense, but by sharing his knowledge with researchers, scholars, and students over the past four decades he has ensured that a wealth of knowledge about the Stó:lō people and their culture and traditions is preserved, shared, and interpreted for current and future generations. He has a lengthy history of association with UFV, and also cooperates with other institutions through his role as an instructor and mentor for an ethnohistory field school.

Perhaps more important even than his academic contributions is Naxaxalhts’i’s work as an historian and teacher within his own Stó:lō cultural tradition. He is one of the most distinguished interpreters of the Coast Salish world of his generation and serves as a bridge between Elders (many of whom are no longer living) and current scholars and interested people of both Stó:lō and non- Stó:lō descent.

Naxaxalhts’i, more commonly called “Sonny” by his many friends, is an active adjunct member of UFV’s History department, regularly leads faculty and staff on Stó:lō Place Name Tours, acts often as an Elder and Witness for university events and gatherings, has served as a member of the UFV Indigenization Committee, and has been a guest speaker for several events in Xwelítem Siyáya: Allyship and Reconciliation Building, a collaboration between UFV and a group of Stó:lō agencies to offer an educational program to help participants enhance their capacity for reconciliation building..

“I nominated Naxaxalhts’i, to recognize him but also the Stó:lō tradition in which he was trained and is training others,” notes Dr. Keith Carlson, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous and Community-Engaged history. “Indeed, as one academic recently articulated, ‘McHalsie is a major force in the development of constructive relations between the mainstream community of British Columbia and Indigenous people here.’”

Shirley Hardman, UFV Vice President, Indigenous, says that Naxaxalht’i embodies what the university seeks in an Indigenous community-based educator.

“The engagement he has with every community in S’olh Téméxw, with the various Elders and knowledge-keepers, the leaders, storytellers, Halq’emeylem language speakers, and the cultural educator ensures that what he shares, what he teaches reflects that which is Stó:lō. His pedagogy is largely an immersion in the experiential. It is how he has learned and it is true to our Stó:lō epistemology. He educates those who listen. His ability as a teacher, storyteller, knowledge-keeper/historian, and a witness to our Stó:lō lived reality. His knowledge is without parallel.”

Naxaxalhts’I will receive his honorary degree at the afternoon Convocation ceremony on Wednesday, June 14, which begins at 2:30 pm.

Mike Retasket, Doctor of Letters

A renowned dancer, drummer, political leader, negotiator, cultural interpreter and traditional Secwépemc knowledge keeper, Mike Retasket’s experiences combine for invaluable insight on boards ranging from the First Nations Leadership Council to the Fraser Basin Council, First Nations Forestry Council, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Tourism Industry Association of BC, and many more.

Wisdom earned through 10 years as Chief of the Bonaparte Indian Band helped him negotiate important government agreements, acting as a signatory on the Transformative Change Accord, Public Safety Accord, and the Leadership Accord. Despite the long hours, Retasket insists he’s happy to do the work — although it hasn’t been without difficulty.

Born in B.C., Retasket was raised largely in Washington State by older siblings after his parents passed away when he was five and 13, respectively.

The youngest of 11 children, he was identified at an early age as a talented drummer and dancer. This integration into traditional Indigenous customs opened the door to a lifetime of diverse activism, leading to his current job educating tourists about the region’s rich Indigenous history in B.C.’s Barkerville Historic Town and Park.

Retasket will receive his honorary degree on Tuesday, June 13 at the 2:30 pm ceremony.

Dr. Judith Soon, Doctor of Laws

Sometimes it takes one defining moment to change life’s trajectory. For Dr. Judith Soon, that moment was in her Grade 12 year when she and four other classmates toured the inner workings of a pharmacy.

From this experience, Soon knew she wanted to pursue a career in pharmacy, one that has turned out to be extremely rewarding. She is especially proud of developing and maintaining a province-wide clinical pharmacy program for long-term care facilities, helping establish the Fraser Valley Regional Science Fair (FVRSF), and being actively involved with Canada-Wide Science Fairs.

When asked about her role in her achievements, Soon says she thinks of herself as primarily a support person.

“If I see a problem that needs solving, a system that’s not working, or something that needs to be developed or modified, I’ll get some colleagues together and work on changing the system.”

It was this unassuming and patient-focused attitude that Soon brought with her when she first moved to the Fraser Valley and noticed a problem within long-term care facilities.

She discovered that prescription processes for members of the aging population living in care homes were not straight-forward. She found that nearly every resident in a long-term care home had a different pharmacy.

“A 100-bed nursing home had maybe 30 different pharmacies all bringing their prescription vials and deliveries to the nursing station.”

This spurred her to gather some colleagues and create the first consultant clinical pharmacy group in the province, which would then go on to manage medications for 55 long-term care facilities.

“One pharmacy could manage all the medications for one nursing home,” she stated. This change decreased the negative side effects patients experienced.

In 1992, Soon signed up to judge at the Fraser Valley Regional Science Fair (FVRSF). She then became the chief judge in 1995.

Soon then became chief judge at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in 2005 and has even been invited to international science fairs in Taiwan, Ireland, and Siberia to judge and coordinate the set-up of new science fairs.

Recently retired from her position as an associate professor of pharmacy at UBC, Soon is actively involved in the Canada-Wide Science Fair, helping coordinate and judge 340 science and technology projects from across the country.

Dr. Soon will receive her honorary degree at the morning Convocation ceremony on Wednesday, June 14, which begins at 9:30 am.

UFV Convocation ceremonies will be held at the UFV Athletic Centre from June 13-15. There will be a total of six ceremonies.

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