Global citizenship and its Canadian award

“Adrienne Clarkson asked me to create the medal for the Prize for Global Citizenship. I had the idea of bringing together the world of creation with that of the great mythological winged deities. Sedna is the Inuit goddess from whom all creatures of the sea spring. Atalanta, Nike, Lilith and the winged bearers of souls in Norse lore, the Valkyrie, each exist in an imperfect world. But through their strength, intelligence, independence, and compassion, they have created an iconography of champions and dissenters. Each in their own way is unyielding and stands apart as they chart a new course against buffeting waves. In the narrative of this medal, Sedna the creator emerges from the waves to pass a vulnerable world to the outstretched arms of our winged guardian.” – Anna Williams, sculptor

The Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship is awarded annually to a leader whose life has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to the ideals of belonging and inclusion. Through words, actions, and results, this individual has encouraged thought and dialogue, approaches, and strategies that strive to remove barriers, change attitudes, and reinforce the principles of tolerance and respect.

The symbolic importance of this prize has never been greater. In a time of unprecedented movement, displacement, and re-settlement by immigrants and refugees, our central challenge is how we are all to live together. This must involve upholding human rights, while both engendering inclusion and respect for each other, and celebrating the cultural differences that make us unique. This challenge of weaving together human rights and cultural differences will permit us to leave behind the old racial and religious divisions. This is the basis for true citizenship – meaningful engagement by citizens for citizens founded on shared principles and values.

His Highness The Aga Khan and Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor General of Canada, in 2016 | Photo courtesy of Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship

Five recipients so far

On September 21, 2016, His Highness The Aga Khan was named the inaugural recipient of the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship.

For his constant and steadfast championing of human rights, Ai WeiWei was celebrated with the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship in Toronto on September 27, 2017. Ai Weiwei is one of the most influential artists of our time. He is equally admired for his fearless activism on behalf of human rights, freedom of expression, and the plight of regular people, whether earthquake victims in China or refugees in the Mediterranean. Consistent in his art and activism alike is a critique of the dehumanizing effects of systems, and an insistence on the moral necessity for individuals to speak out. “Citizens,” Ai Weiwei writes, “should bear the responsibility to act.

Margaret Atwood received the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship in Toronto on September 26, 2018, becoming the first woman and first Canadian to do so.

Atwood’s literary works and social activism galvanize people everywhere. Her brilliant writing and dedication to civic participation demonstrate a fearless commitment to the ideals of belonging and citizenship, and to the principles of tolerance and respect.

2019 saw the 4th Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship go to General Romeo Dallaire, whose lifetime of work is woven together by a common thread. He brings to light issues too often ignored. He forces us to acknowledge and act on uncomfortable truths. He works to make the world a better place for its most vulnerable.

In recognition of this work and to honour his courage and resilience in transforming trauma into action, he received the on September 25, 2019.

In 2020 The Honourable Senator Murray Sinclair, best known for his role as the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), was named the recipient of the 5th Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship.

After leading inquiries on racism in Manitoba, and residential schools and police discrimination in Thunder Bay, Senator Sinclair took on a role that redefined Canada. Under his leadership the TRC heard from over 6500 witnesses over 4 years. The brutal honesty of the revelations meant that people could not look away. He continues to be a powerful force leading the way for fundamental change in the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada through his work in the Senate. In doing so he has reshaped our nation’s future.

Source: Institute for Canadian Citizenship