2 min

That’s Dr Fuller

Janine gets honourary PhD, shares with community

'HONOURED AND BLESSED": Janine Fuller received her Honourary Doctorate of Laws degree from Simon Fraser University with grace Jun 2 as she spoke emotionally of community, chosen and biological family, the fight against censorship and came out about having Huntington's disease. Credit: Gareth Kirkby

Canadians cherish their right to freedom of expression. Yet, it is a fragile right and often depends for its survival on the courage of the individual. Today, we honour one such person, Janine Fuller, an author and bookseller who has courageously fought to ensure that this fundamental freedom is protected for all Canadians.

Janine Fuller once said, “Nothing hard is ever won easily. We must be ever vigilant and inclusive in our struggles.” For more than a decade, she has stayed true to her words. As manager of the Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium, she has been the catalyst in an historic legal battle against censorship in this country. Since 1990, she has spearheaded successive legal challenges mounted by Little Sister’s against Canada Customs and its use of arbitrary standards in prohibiting admission into Canada of materials deemed to be obscene. Indeed, this case has become of paramount importance in the development of Canadian free-speech jurisprudence.

In her sustained effort to end censorship of gay and lesbian literature and thus ensure unfettered access to ides by all Canadians, Janine Fuller, together with her colleagues at Little Sister’s, has taken enormous personal risk. Her struggle has consumed energy, time and resources. Without doubt, there were times when it would have been far easier to quit. But, fortunately for all of us, she continued, and continues, to place principle ahead of the bottom line. Her far-sighted leadership provides much of the impetus to this selfless task. We are indeed glad that she has persevered, for the gains made by Little Sister’s have benefitted all Canadians.

Janine Fuller has engaged in a long and heroic struggle against injustice, braving daunting obstacles to the intellectual freedoms so important in the pursuit of truth and knowledge. For her commitment to these democratic principles, she has received numerous honours, including the Doug Wilson Award from the University of Saskatchewan and the Vancouver YWCA Woman of Distinction Award.

Like all academic communities, we at Simon Fraser hold dear these freedoms and the champions who defend them. It is fitting, therefore, that today we recognize the valiant efforts made by one Canadian to uphold the rights of all.

Mr Chancellor (Milton Wong), I ask now on behalf of the senate of this university, that you confer upon Janine Fuller the degree Doctor of laws, honoris causa.

* Excerpted from the speech by Michael Stevenson, president and vice-chancellor of Simon Fraser University in presenting Janine Fuller with an honourary doctorate. To hear Fuller’s acceptance speech, go to: