Cape Breton University is proud to honour the lifetime accomplishments of the late Charlie Joe Dennis.
Born and raised in Eskasoni, Mr. Dennis naturally began his career working on an oyster farm in the Bras d’Or Lake. This sparked a lifelong passion for the management of the precious resources provided by Mother Earth and inspired his dream of creating employment for young Mi’kmaq.
Mr. Dennis was instrumental in the development of many of Eskasoni’s fishery programs including the Unama’ki Oyster Farm, Eskasoni Fish and Wildlife Commission and Crane Cove Seafoods. He helped found the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources in 1999 and was its first executive director, working on natural resource management and sustainability for the five Mi’kmaw communities.
Mr. Dennis defended traditional Mi’kmaw rights but respected everyone, regardless of politics or position. His quiet diplomacy naturally led to collaborations on many of the projects in which he became involved. During his career, he formed partnerships with government, industry, universities and non-governmental organizations.
He nurtured relationships that helped form the multi-jurisdictional and cross-cultural program known as the Bras d’Or Lake Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative. He made an immeasurable contribution to the Mi’kmaq on political, social and cultural levels.
His natural leadership abilities opened the door to relationships between the Mi’kmaq and neighbouring communities at a time when that was rare, and those abilities were at the forefront as he served his home community as Chief of Eskasoni for two terms. His lasting impact in the community lives on through the Sarah Denny Memorial Cultural Centre, the Eskasoni fishery processing plant and the fishery building and laboratory at Crane Cove.
Mr. Dennis was also named to the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s honour roll in 1994 and received the Cormack Award from the Margaree Salmon Association in 1995. In 2001, he received the Deputy Minister’s Certificate in recognition of his contributions to peace, friendship and co-operation between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and First Nations.
Mr. Dennis received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award from the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia for his outstanding contributions to the province’s industry, the community of Eskasoni and the Mi’kmaw nation as a whole.
Cape Breton University will posthumously confer the degree Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, on a man who left behind an indelible record for all Canadians through his love and care for the environment in and around the Bras d’Or Lake, Charlie Joe Dennis.