|Presentation of an Honorary Degree to William G. Davies, 1978 (Photograph Collection, A-6565)|
Convocation date: May 18, 1978
Discipline / contribution: labour leader
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of the Council and Senate, I present to you Mr. .Degree received: Doctor of Laws
An honorary degree from this university is a fitting tribute to a native of Saskatchewan who has had several honourable careers -- as a leader in the Trade Union movement, as a member of the city council of Moose Jaw, and as a member of the Legislative Assembly and cabinet minister.
Mr. Davies was born at Indian Head and grew up on a farm there, and in Regina. One of his school principals in Regina was M.J. Coldwell. In the Regina of the 1930's the young Bill Davies knew the depression intimately (his first job paid $25.00 per month) and he saw first hand the most dramatic event in Canada's depression - the Regina Riot – a vivid memory for him of injustice and brutality to unfortunate men whose crime was that they could not find work.
In 1941 Mr. Davies began work at the Swift. Canadian plant in Moose Jaw; despite great difficulties he and others helped to organize one of the first two packing house workers unions in Canada, and a year later he became president of the Moose Jaw local of the United Packinghouse Workers of America.
Mention of that union reminds me that when professors at this university organized themselves into a faculty association in 1951 and 1952. Some of us on the first executive discussed whether professors should organize as a union. One evening the late Professor Ken Buckley and I joined Clarence Lyons, president of the Saskatoon "local of the Packinghouse Workers, between periods at a hockey game. I asked Clarence if there was a union which professors could affiliate with if they became unionized. "Do you guys eat meat?" he asked. I replied that we could afford hamburger occasionally. "Well, join the Packinghouse Workers," he said. For a while there was a possibility that professors might join the working class.
From 1946 to 1974, with the exception of the years 1960 to 1964, Mr. Davies was Executive Secretary of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and was a major architect of the reforms which became embodied in the Saskatchewan Trade Union Act - the minimum wage, the reduced work week, holidays with pay, workers compensation benefits, and many others.
As an alderman in Moose Jaw for eight years Mr. Davies was a major force in securing for that city the first low cost housing project in Saskatchewan, and the first land assembly program in Western Canada.
From 1956 to 1971 Mr. Davies was a member of the Saskatchewan Legislature. In 1960 he was Minister of Public Works under Premier Douglas, and in 1961 Premier Lloyd appointed him Minister of Health - in that office he successfully survived months of strife and bitterness, and helped to implement Canada's first medicare plan. Mr. Davies has been a latter-day pioneer of Saskatchewan- pioneering new ideas, changes, and betterment of the quality of our lives.
Eminent Chancellor. I present to you Mr. William G. Davies and ask that you will confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris causa.
Degree presented by: Doug Cherry
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