UQAM awards an honorary doctorate to human rights defender Jay Naidoo


Montreal, May 30, 2023 – The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) is awarding a doctorate honoris causa to Jayaseelan “Jay” Naidoo, one of the most respected individuals in South Africa and on the entire African continent. The ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. on June 9 during the convocation of the Faculty of Political Science and Law at UQAM’s Centre Pierre-Péladeau.

Rector Stéphane Pallage will be in attendance at the presentation, along with the Dean of the Faculty of Political Science and Law, Rachel Chagnon; the teaching staff; several dignitaries and a hundred graduating students accompanied by their family and friends.

The award symbolizes the University’s recognition of Jay Naidoo’s exemplary commitment to the defense of democracy, social justice, peace and human rights as well as the scope of his countless achievements for the benefit of vulnerable populations in several countries.

A humanist without borders

Born in South Africa in 1954, Jay Naidoo was a member of the 90% black population deprived of all their rights and subjected to violent repression by a totalitarian regime, solely on the basis of the colour of their skin.

With strong convictions, he became involved full-time in the fight against apartheid, spearheaded by the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, Steve Biko. Jay Naidoo has always worked to improve the living conditions of the poor and to establish true democracy and social justice.

In 1985, he was elected general secretary of the largest trade union federation in South Africa, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Under his leadership, COSATU evolved into the most powerful organized force for democratic and non-racial resistance in the country. Jay Naidoo thus became a figurehead in the struggle against apartheid. Courageous, ethical and determined, he never yielded to threats or wavered from his belief in the vital importance of his crusade.

On coming to power, President Nelson Mandela appointed Naidoo Minister for the Reconstruction and Development Programme, with a mandate to coordinate the dismantling of harmful socio-economic structures and outcomes. Before leaving politics in 1999, Naidoo served as Minister of Post, Telecommunications and Broadcasting. Under his guidance, more than 40 African countries adopted a global political framework, the African Connection, initiating a digital revolution on the continent.

He then led several large-scale projects for social development and the fight against poverty and illiteracy. Of all his accomplishments, the Earthrise Trust best reveals Jay Naidoo’s profound humanism. In 2013, he invested all his assets in the purchase of a plot of land from a white farmer to establish a cooperative of black farmers dispossessed by apartheid as well as a daycare centre and a school. This initiative is recognized as a model of racial reconciliation in South Africa.

Today Jay Naidoo remains an inspirational figure for all who aspire to a more equitable world. The magazine New African named him one of the 100 most influential Africans.

UQAM’s honorary doctorates

The degree of Doctor honoris causa is the highest distinction a university can award. Jay Naidoo is joining a list of exceptional individuals that includes Louise Arbour, Joséphine Bacon, Lise Bissonnette, Sheila Fraser, Dany Laferrière, Louise Lecavalier, Jean Lemire, Ghislain Picard, Hubert Reeves, Isabella Rossellini, David Suzuki, Michèle Thibodeau-Deguire, Réjean Thomas, Gilles Vigneault, Denis Villeneuve, Lise Watier, Wim Wenders and Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré, to name a few, whom UQAM has honoured over the years.

Jay Naidoo is available for interviews in English.



Evelyne Dubourg, Communications Advisor
Press Relations and Special Events Division
Communications Service, UQAM
514 987-3000, extension 20157