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Maude Barlow to receive honorary doctorate

April 14, 2022

Update : March 16, 2023

INRS will award her the highest academic honour for her contribution to the universal right to water at its convocation ceremony on May 14, 2022. 

Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) is proud to announce that it will be awarding this year’s honorary doctorate to Maude Barlow, a strong advocate for water resources in Canada and around the world.

With an ongoing focus on solidarity, Ms. Barlow has led a remarkable career in service of the environment, social justice, and democracy. She embodies the key values of respect, openness, and inclusion advocated by INRS, as the environment and its protection are an important part of the institute’s mission, both in research and training.  

She will be honoured at the 2022 convocation ceremony on May 14. INRS will also celebrate the success of the 137 graduates who make up the research and training institute’s most recent cohort, together at Centre Mont-Royal in Montréal. 

“Maude Barlow’s extensive and successful career has had a tangible impact on communities across Canada and around the world. This exceptional woman has been instrumental in raising awareness among individuals and governments of the importance of universal access to water. The message she carries inspires us all!”

Luc-Alain Giraldeau, Chief Executive Officer, INRS 

Embracing social change 

For over 40 years, Maude Barlow has supported important causes and helped vulnerable populations through her tremendous generosity and keen interest in the various problems they face. 

This activist, who holds a bachelor’s degree in history, quickly became known for her outstanding communication skills and her strength in defending the causes she cares about. Maude Barlow was initially an advocate for women’s rights and gradually shifted her focus to defending access to water as a universal human right. In 1988, she helped found the Council of Canadians, for which she served as volunteer chair for almost 30 years. 

In 2008, she was appointed Senior Advisor on Water to Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockman, then president of the United Nations General Assembly. She campaigned with him for universal recognition of the right to water and for its inclusion in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 2010, Maude Barlow attended the Assembly vote to recognize the human right to water and sanitation. Her work was praised by a number of delegations. 

Blue Communities 

Maude Barlow initiated Blue Communities, a project that supports and encourages municipalities to protect and promote the right to water and to stop water privatization. Since 2009, this movement has advocated, among other things, the elimination of bottled water at conferences and public events. Today, the project affects over 25 million people around the world. This resounding success was followed by the publication of her book Whose Water Is It, Anyway? in 2019.  

The numerous awards she has received include the prestigious Right Livelihood Award (also known as the “Alternative Nobel”), which was presented to her in 2005 by Right Livelihood, an independent non-governmental organization based in Switzerland. The same year, the Lannan Foundation, in California, awarded her the Cultural Freedom Fellowship. 

“I am deeply moved to receive this honour. Institut national de la recherche scientifique is doing groundbreaking work on the ecological dimensions of the climate and water crises. By awarding me this doctorate, the Institute is clearly demonstrating its understanding of the human rights dimension of the crises as well.”

Maude Barlow 

By awarding an honorary doctorate to Maude Barlow, INRS wishes to reaffirm its recognition of water access issues and the importance of preserving this essential resource for all forms of life. 

Recognizing the excellence of graduates 

More broadly, the convocation is also an opportunity to acknowledge the remarkable achievements of two graduates (one at the master’s level and one at the doctoral level) by presenting them with the Executive Chief Office’s Award of Excellence for their exemplary academic record. A Governor General’s Gold Academic Medal will also be awarded to one student. Through this award, the Governor General of Canada encourages academic excellence across the country and recognizes outstanding students. 

The INRS graduation ceremony will be held on May 14

INRS will present the following awards and distinctions to students from its four centres: 

  • International Outreach Award 
  • Innovation Award, presented by TD Insurance Meloche Monnex 
  • Student Leadership Award 
  • Best Master’s Thesis Award, presented by INRS Foundation 
  • Best Doctoral Dissertation Award, presented by INRS Foundation  

INRS Foundation awards 

Once again this year, the INRS Foundation will present three Lumières Awards to alumni in the Firestarter, Trailblazer, and Starburst categories.