Governor General Mary Simon visits Nunavik . this week


Posted at 5:03 PM

Sarah Ritchie
The Canadian Press

(The usual end-of-school excitement in Nunavik reaches new heights as hundreds of students prepare to present special projects to the country’s first native governor general.) Mary Simon’s Tour of the Nunavik Region to the North of Quebec this week marks the first time she has made an official visit to the region where she grew up since she was named governor general in July 2021.

The five-day trip is expected to include visits to four schools and youth groups, highlighting one of the priorities During her tenure, Simon has worked to advance education and the physical and mental health of young people.

Students and teachers have been preparing art projects and anticipating the visit for over a month.

“The fact that students can communicate with her in their native language is something very special,” said Jade Duchesneau-Bernier, communications coordinator for Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, the Nunavik school board.

Although M .’s inabilityme Speaking French about Simon has been the subject of controversy – sparking hundreds of complaints and an investigation by the official languages ​​watchdog – his fluency in Inuktitut is an asset to this particular tour.

“It’s very rare that we have government officials who know what the north is, who the Inuit are, what their culture is, what their language is,” said Ms Van den Duchesneau Bernier.

The visit of Simon in the northernmost part of the province comes just days after meeting Quebec Prime Minister François Legault, who told reporters she still had “work to do” to improve her French skills.

mme Simon said she was determined to learn French on the job, but was denied the opportunity when she attended a federal school in her youth.

She was born in 1947 near Kangiqsualujjuaq, an Inuit village in Nunavik. Her mother Nany May, whose last name was Angnatuk-Askew, was Inuk and her father, Bob Mardon May, had moved to the Arctic to work for Hudson’s Bay Company and remained there.

She and her siblings attended the federal day school in Kuujjuaq, then called Fort Chimo. She was home schooled by her father after 6 yearsand year.

mme Simon, 74, has been a leader in the North for four decades. She was president of Makivik Corp., the Nunavik land claims organization, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization.

She was Canada’s first ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs and also served as the country’s ambassador to Denmark.

On his first day in Kuujjuaq, Simon must meet with representatives from Makivik, the Kativik Regional Government, the Nunavik Regional Council of Health and Social Services, and the school board before sitting down with the mayor and council.

The pathway also includes organizations focusing on holistic approaches to treating trauma and substance abuse in a region struggling with the effects of colonialism, with high rates of alcohol abuse, suicide risk, and death.

For example, the Isuarsivik Recovery Center emphasizes blending traditional Inuit values ​​with modern practices. It offers six-week clinical programs for groups of nine men or women that help them heal from trauma and overcome addictions free of charge.

mme Simon will visit a new center, due to open next year, with a family hospitalization program. This approach was rewarded in March with an Arctic Inspiration Prize worth 1 million.

mme Simon plans to speak with Inuit leaders and local officials, meet with the elderly and participate in cultural celebrations throughout the week.

Her husband, author and journalist Whit Fraser, 79, is also part of the official tour in his role as Canada’s viceregal husband.

mme Simon is known for her role in the negotiation and implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement between the Cree and Inuit of northern Quebec, the provincial government and Hydro-Quebec in 1975.

Considered the first modern treaty in Canada, the agreement reaffirmed the hunting and trapping rights of the Inuit and Cree in the region and established compensation of $225 million over 20 years in exchange for the construction of hydroelectric dams. .

While serving as Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, she led negotiations to create what is now known as the Arctic Council of eight countries. She has also worked as a producer and host for CBC North.

In 2016, she was a special advisor on the Arctic to Carolyn Bennett, then Secretary of State for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and suggested indigenous protected areas in the north.

Pita Aatami, president of Makivik Corp., said in a statement when Simon was named Canada’s next governor general: “In Nunavik, we all know our new governor general as Mary. †

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