Sharon J. Johnston, LL.D., May 18, 2017
Her Excellency Sharon J. Johnston
C.C.; B.A.(Western); B.Sc.(Tor.); M.Sc., Ph.D.(McGill); LL.D.(Carleton)(VIU)

Her Excellency Sharon Johnston has given her formidable knowledge, a sympathetic ear and a visible platform to those living with mental illness. She is a fervent advocate who has challenged Canadians to remove stigma and create positive change.  Her desire to help others, coupled with her passion for health, wellness and the sciences, prompted her to pursue a career as a physical and occupational therapist. With determination and drive, Her Excellency completed her masters and doctorate degrees in rehabilitation sciences at McGill University while helping to raise five young daughters.

When her husband, Governor General David Johnston, took on his distinguished new role in 2010 she stepped forward as vice-regal consort. In this capacity, Her Excellency has advocated for all Canadians, from our children to our nation’s civil service, and urges us to consider mental illness in the same way we would any other illness.

She has travelled to Indigenous communities throughout the country and witnessed the challenges they face. Her Excellency was so alarmed by what she found that in 2012, she initiated the country’s first roundtable on Indigenous health, in her home at Rideau Hall.

She has advocated for better support and updated policy for our military members and their families. With her background in art therapy, Her Excellency sought paintings and sculptures to install at CFB Petawawa to help soldiers on their path to wellness. In 2016, she was appointed Honorary Captain (Navy) for Military Personnel Command of the Canadian Armed Forces in appreciation of her dedication and support.

Her latest turn is that of novelist. Matrons and Madams evolves around the theory that it takes four generations of a family to resolve the effects of war. It is loosely based on her insight into those that serve our country, and her grandmother, who served as a hospital superintendent after the Great War. Proceeds from the novel will support the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health.

Altruism is an integral part of Her Excellency’s character. Beyond her mental health advocacy, she served on the Board of Governors for the Collège Marie de France and Bishop’s College School, and co-founded Friends of the Neuro at the Montreal Neurological Institute, which provides support for patients and their families.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to Her Excellency Sharon Johnston, for her life-long commitment to the mental health of all Canadians.

Sharon Johnston
Her Excellency Sharon J. Johnston