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Sheila Copps, BA'74
Canadian politician

The Honourable Sheila Copps, known as one of Canada’s foremost female politicians, has been a prominent figure in Canadian public life for almost 35 years. Known for being feisty and tough, she was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. Sheila entered politics in 1981 by becoming the first Liberal in over 50 years to represent the provincial riding of Hamilton Centre. In 1984, she was elected Member of Parliament for the riding of Hamilton East and was re-elected in five successive elections.

Sheila was the first woman to ever hold the position of Deputy Prime Minister and served for ten years in the federal cabinet, both as Minister of the Environment and Minister of Canadian Heritage. From her work on diversity and inclusion, to protection of the environment, to support for young Canadians and women, Sheila has had a storied career and left an indelible mark on Canadian public policy.

Among her achievements, she brought forward what was the strongest federal environmental assessment legislation in the world; established Young Canada Works to provide annual summer employment for youth; brought in copyright protection for Canadian recording artists; and led ministers of culture from over 50 nations in the development of the first ever International Network on Cultural Diversity.

Sheila earned a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in French and English from Western University in London, Ontario, and pursued further studies at McMaster University in Hamilton and the University of Rouen in France. In 1998, she received an Honourary Doctorate in Law from Université Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia in recognition of her efforts to promote bilingualism and her commitment to advancing the French language and culture in Canada.

In recent years, Sheila has been working both in French and English as a journalist, broadcaster, and political commentator. On December 30, 2012, she was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada. She has authored two books, Nobody’s Baby and Worth Fighting For, and currently resides in Ottawa with her husband, Austin Thorne. Together, the couple has four children and four grandchildren.

In 2017, she became the Chair of the Board of Directors at the World Design Summit in Monreal, Quebéc, and is currently Campaign Chair at the Richelieu Foundation. 

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