KPU to award honorary degree to pragmatic former union leader Sinclair

Tue, Apr 28, 2015

Metro Vancouver, BC - When Jim Sinclair retired as president of the B.C. Federation of Labour last year, he drew accolades from left, right and centre – literally.

Union leaders from every sector praised the longtime activist in the media.

Paying tribute in the Legislature, Premier Christy Clark lauded Sinclair for his “fearless leadership,” and noted on Twitter that she was “glad we could work together to create and protect B.C. jobs.”

And in a video tribute, Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer jokingly offered Sinclair an unpaid internship as a news reporter.

“That’s the virtue of Jim Sinclair,” said Kwantlen Polytechnic University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Alan Davis. “He’s widely regarded as a pragmatist who understands the importance of communication and collaboration.”

Sinclair will receive an honorary degree this spring from KPU for his outstanding contributions to society. President of the BC Federation of Labour for an unprecedented 15 years, Sinclair has often led the charge for proper trades training and apprenticeship programs. He’s also made significant contributions to advancing the rights of farm workers and young workers, including championing a $15 per hour minimum wage, and getting improved safety legislation for late-night workers.

Another part of his legacy is the creation of the BCFED’s Occupational Health and Safety Centre. Since it was created in 2001, the centre has provided safety training for more than 20,000 people, reached 130,000 high school students and offered safety courses in 80 different communities.

Davis lauds Sinclair for his extensive work on behalf of the most marginalized in society. While the BCFED represents 500,000 affiliated union members from across the province, Sinclair has often used his voice and his position to advocate for the interests of all working people, regardless of union membership.

“The labour movement plays an important role in society, advancing and protecting the rights of all working people, not just those with a union card,” says Sinclair. “That’s the labour movement I grew up in, and that’s what I believe the labour movement should be.”

Sinclair, a former journalist, says he’s elated to receive an honorary degree from KPU. When he accepts his degree from Davis in May, it will be the first time walking across the stage of any university for the 60-year-old Sinclair.

Sinclair is certain that education is fundamental to addressing growing inequality in our province and, like KPU’s vision, believes all learners should have the opportunity to achieve success.

“We need to open the door to education as wide as we can to give people opportunities and inspiration,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair walked his first picket line when he was 17 years old, joining striking immigrant women seeking a first collective agreement. At 21, he began a career in journalism as a founding member of Vancouver’s Co-op Radio, and later went on to work as a reporter with the Nelson Daily News, and founded and co-published the Kootenay Reporter, a joint labour/student community newspaper.

Prior to joining the BCFED, Sinclair spent 18 years at the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union, where he held a number of positions including associate editor of the union newspaper, organizer and health and safety director, and vice-president.

He also served as a board member of B.C. Hydro and the Vancouver Richmond Health Board  and edited and wrote two chapters in a book on the North American Free Trade Agreement titled Crossing the Line.

Honorary degrees are awarded to those honoris causa in recognition of dignified achievements or outstanding service to the public. Nominees are exceptionally distinguished: scholars, creative artists, public servants, persons prominent in the community and the professions, and others who have made significant contributions locally, nationally, or globally.

This spring, KPU will also award honorary degrees to the five founders of Langley Community Music School, and fashion historian Ivan Sayers.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been serving the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 250,000 people. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 124 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at


Media contact:
Hayley Woodin
Media Specialist
t: 604.599.2883
c: 604.364.1288

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