Dalhousie reception celebrates new scholarship honouring Senator Don Oliver

- October 16, 2023

Left to right: Wade Dawe, Donald Oliver and Rustum Southwell. (Nick Pearce images)
Left to right: Wade Dawe, Donald Oliver and Rustum Southwell. (Nick Pearce images)

Dalhousie alumni and friends came together at Halifax's North End Memorial Library on October 10 to celebrate the launch of the new Senator Don Oliver Scholarship. Created with a $1-million gift by his friend, entrepreneur, financier, and investor Wade Dawe, the scholarship will provide financial support as well as access to mentoring advice to African Nova Scotian students.

“The main purpose is to engage Black people throughout Nova Scotia who faced obstacles in pursuing a university education,” says Oliver (LLB’64, LLD’03). “Anything that Wade and I can do to remove barriers and help make that happen is for the good of the province and Canada.”

Donald Oliver

A champion of diversity, equity, and justice

The scholarship recognizes Oliver’s fight for white acceptance of diversity, equity, and justice, and his work has resulted in meaningful societal change. As a first-year law student, he helped amend the bill that became the Fair Accommodation Practices Act, which made it illegal to deny anyone access to public spaces based on skin colour.

That achievement became the launch point for extensive social justice work both in Oliver’s practice and as Canada’s first Black male senator. His efforts to protect women, children, people with disabilities, and racially visible individuals have been recognized with the Order of Canada, the Order of Nova Scotia, King’s Counsel honours and the Dalhousie Schulich School of Law’s 2023 Weldon Award for Unselfish Public Service.

“Senator Oliver has dedicated his career and life to fighting racism and promoting equality,” says Dawe, chair and CEO of Numus Financial Inc. “While receiving an Oliver Scholarship does not rectify the injustices of the past four hundred years, it will enable young Black students to continue walking the path that Senator Oliver has so courageously opened for them.”

Wade Dawe

Supporting a new generation

First-year Dal medical sciences student Joshua Paris knows from personal experience the difference that scholarships can make. He sees the Senator Don Oliver Scholarship as a momentous step forward in addressing the disparities African Nova Scotians like him face in earning a degree.   

Joshua Paris

“This is an investment in the future of Black scholars and in our society,” Paris says. “It is an investment in breaking down barriers, nurturing talent, and supporting us in our Black excellence. This initiative is not just about education. It puts us on the path toward achieving a more equitable future.”

Dr. Barbara Hamilton-Hinch, an associate professor in the Faculty of Health, Dal's assistant vice‑provost equity and inclusion, and a member of the Steering Committee of the African Nova Scotian Advisory Council, agrees. She adds that the scholarship will also support Dalhousie’s ongoing commitment to fostering a culture grounded in equity and inclusiveness.

“We are grateful to Wade Dawe for creating this scholarship, which will make it possible for African Nova Scotian students to blaze their own trails in the academic and career paths they choose, and to tackle the pressing issues we face, just as Senator Oliver has done. It’s unfortunate that some of those same issues continue today,” says Dr. Hamilton-Hinch.

Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch

Inspiration for transformation

Having committed $1 million to establish the scholarship, Dawe’s lead gift will advance the education of African Nova Scotian youth in Nova Scotia. Donations can be made here. The first scholarship is scheduled to be awarded in 2024. Oliver believes it could inspire recipients to consider postgraduate education and research, which would be transformative for them and for Canada.

“I am hoping these African Nova Scotian students will learn, research, and write about their history,” he says. “More than that, I hope they use that work to make the case for diversity and to effect change. That would make me very happy.”


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