June 2024 Convocation Honorary Degree and Distinguished Awards

Honorary Degree Recipients

Stephanie Cadieux

Wednesday, June 12 - Morning Ceremony

Throughout her career, Stephanie Cadieux has dedicated herself to breaking down barriers to accessibility, diversity and gender inclusion. Her work has been nothing short of exemplary.

Stephanie is the Chief Accessibility Officer for Canada, and is the first person to serve in the role, which was created under the Accessible Canada Act.

Appointed in 2022, Stephanie has a four-year mandate to act as an independent advisor to the Minister of Employment and Social Development. Stephanie is charged with monitoring and reporting on the progress and outcomes of the Accessible Canada Act, along with challenges, impediments to success and any emerging issues that arise regarding accessibility in Canada. This is no small feat, given that responsibility for implementing the act is dispersed across thousands of federal departments and federally regulated industries from coast to coast to coast.

Not surprisingly, this calls for collaboration, consultation, creativity and passion — all demonstrated strengths of Stephanie, who served British Columbians for 13 years as an MLA and minister.

Stephanie brings lived experience to her role as Chief Accessibility Officer. She suffered a broken neck at the age of 18, resulting in a spinal cord injury and paralysis. She has used a wheelchair ever since.

Embracing the opportunity to advocate for the disability community, she served as Director of Marketing and Development for the BC Paraplegic Association for eight years prior to entering politics.

Stephanie was first elected in May 2009 as the BC Liberal MLA for Surrey-Panorama, and was the first woman who used a wheelchair to serve as an MLA in BC. She would go on to be elected in three different Surrey ridings from May 2009 to May 2022, and served as Minister of Children and Family Development, Minister of Social Development, Minister of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government and Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

Also among her cabinet roles with the provincial government was serving as Minister of Social Development. Under her leadership, the ministry focused on dismantling policy barriers for people with disabilities accessing services. She was also Opposition critic for Advanced Education and Opposition critic for Gender Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion.

A graduate of KPU’s marketing program, Stephanie was named a Distinguished Alumna in 2013. Stephanie has remained connected with KPU, and has attended many KPU events, as a guest speaker, participant and as an audience member, and she publicly praises the quality of education she received from KPU.

Her tenacity is legendary among political colleagues, and her work is grounded in and informed by her deep respect for a diversity of opinions and voices. She embraces consultation and understands that dialogue is essential to the shared understanding of the issues at hand, and the development of solutions that can address them.

Stephanie has already been an inspiration to so many. Now she’s forging a vital new path toward a barrier-free Canada.

Arley McNeney Cruthers

Friday, June 14 - Morning Ceremony

Arley Cruthers (nee McNeney) worked tirelessly for her students and built bridges across university faculties. She also spent a lifetime advancing accessibility and the rights of people with disabilities.

A beloved KPU instructor, Arley passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in March 2023. Her award is the first posthumous honorary degree in the university’s history.

Arley was a parasport athlete and decorated Paralympian, an acclaimed novelist, a disability justice advocate, a community-building champion, an innovative educator, and above all, a dedicated mother to her young daughter. She held a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her notable service and contributions focused on open education, inclusion, anti-racism and anti-oppression, decolonization and disability justice have positively influenced countless individuals worldwide.

Arley’s accomplishments in wheelchair basketball have inspired people with disabilities to pursue sports and achieve their goals. She earned three medals, including a gold medal at the 2002 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship and the 2006 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship. Her bronze medal at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games further attests to her excellence.

Arley’s contributions extended beyond the court as she provided marketing, communications and public support to Team Canada at world sporting events, including the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. She also served as the head coach for a wheelchair basketball team at the 2016 BC Winter Games.

Arley was a sought-after instructor at KPU. She taught in the Applied Communications Department in the Melville School of Business at KPU from 2016 until her passing in March 2023. She also taught students in the public relations and entrepreneurial leadership programs at KPU. Arley was a leader in the areas of inclusion and accessibility. She worked hard to dismantle systemic barriers to post- secondary education, especially for marginalized communities.

In recognition of her work, she received KPU’s inaugural Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Award and the UnTapped BC Workplace Inclusion Award as an Individual Champion for her commitment to workplace accessibility and disability inclusion. Arley’s commitment to removing barriers to post-secondary education was also recognized by BCcampus, receiving the Award for Excellence in Open Education for her publication of an open textbook, Student Engagement Activities for Business Communications.

Her talent as a writer also earned her recognition in the literary world. Her debut novel, Post, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Novel in Canada and the Caribbean in 2007. Additionally, her novel The Time We All Went Marching was named a Globe and Mail Top 100 books of 2011. Cruthers also co-authored two romance novels.

Outside of the workplace, Arley was a tireless advocate for disability justice in her community. She established an inclusive and accessible soccer club for children facing barriers to participation in organized sports, and created Curb Cuts, a linocut art project with the goal of fighting ableism, sending all proceeds to a mutual aid project in Vancouver.

A bursary in her memory will support KPU students who experience structural, attitudinal, technological, cultural, or systemic barriers to accessing or completing their education.

Arley left a legacy far beyond KPU — and her influence will not be forgotten inside this university’s walls.