Richards First Openly LGBTQ2+ Person Awarded SK Order of Merit
Long time LGBTQ2+ archivist and activist, Neil Richards, will be posthumously awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, making him what appears to be the first openly LGBTQ2+ person to receive the award.
Richards is accompanied by 5 other outstanding individuals in receiving the award this year. “Saskatchewan’s motto is, ‘from many peoples, strength,’ and these six exceptional individuals exemplify the strength our province derives from its citizens,” Lieutenant Governor W. Thomas Molloy said in a press release.
The Saskatchewan Order of Merit has only been distributed to 229 individuals since it was established in 1985 to recognize excellence and achievements from outstanding citizens. It is recognized in the national sequence of orders by the federal government.
Joe Wickenhauser, Executive Director of Moose Jaw Pride & the Saskatchewan Pride Network, was among a group of individuals who nominated Richards for the award just months before he passed away unexpectedly in January of this year.
“Neil was always finding ways of advancing LGBT rights in Saskatchewan. He was a very thoughtful and generous person who helped many younger LGBT people get recognized for their work. It wasn’t hard finding respected community members who could sing his praises,” Wickenhauser said.
Richards’ enormous collection of historical material on gender and sexual diversity–housed between the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan Archives & Special Collections–is one of the largest in the country and a rich legacy to the province of Saskatchewan.
The following biography of Neil Richards was released by the province today:
“Neil Richards was born in Ontario but called Saskatchewan home since 1971 when he accepted a position at the University of Saskatchewan Library. He immediately became a passionate voice for the province’s LGBTQ and two‐spirit community, through activism and education, as well as by collecting and archiving rare material that documented the experiences of LGBTQ people in Saskatchewan. Early in his career, Mr. Richards was a member of the committee to defend Doug Wilson, a teacher at the University of Saskatchewan whose teaching duties were restricted after his sexual orientation become public. Ultimately the case led to a resolution being passed by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour asking the government to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In the 1980s Mr. Richards worked on some of Saskatchewan’s earliest AIDS awareness initiatives, at a time when such work was highly stigmatized and misunderstood.
Through his collection of posters, publications, fiction, magazines and more, Mr. Richards helped preserve the history of the LGBTQ and two‐spirit communities in Saskatchewan. He donated his collection to the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan and to the University of Saskatchewan. In 1995, he received the first President’s Service Award from the University of Saskatchewan for outstanding contributions to the learning and working environment at the University. In 2010 the University established the Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity at the University Archives and Special Collections. The collection has more than 6,000 titles and preserves an important part of prairie history that has often been excluded in the past. Sadly, Mr. Richards passed away in Saskatoon on January 12, 2018.”
For a comment on Neil Richards’ life and work, contact:
For more information about the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, contact:
For more information about the Saskatchewan Order of Merit or to nominate someone, visit www.saskatchewan.ca/honoursawards.
For information about the Richards Collections, visit:
Neil Richards Collection of Sexual & Gender Diversity
Saskatchewan Resources for Sexual Diversity