Margaret Thom perfect 'role model' fit for N.W.T. commissioner, leaders say

Life wasn't always easy for Fort Providence's Margaret Thom, but she found a path to wellness and has been helping others ever since. On Wednesday, she was officially announced as the territory's new commissioner.

Thom is 3rd woman ever to be appointed to position

'I turned my life around and I was very interested in helping our community,' says Margarey Thom, the new commissioner of the Northwest Territories. (Pat Kane/Tides Canada/Arctic Funders Collaborative)

Some representatives in the Northwest Territories say the role of territorial commissioner suits Margaret Thom, who's seen as a strong advocate for youth, post-secondary education and people struggling with addictions.

Thom was officially announced as the territory's new commissioner on Wednesday.

Her responsibilities will include swearing in new MLAs and ministers as well as providing assent for new legislation. 

N.W.T. Member of Parliament Michael McLeod has known Thom for most of his life, having grown up in Fort Providence with her. 

He says he knows she will do "a very good job in her role."

"Margaret has spent a good part of her life committed to the concept of healthy people and healthy communities.

"She's been a go-to person for many people over the years in times of crisis."

Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, is someone who put forth Margaret Thom's name as an option for N.W.T. commissioner. (CBC)

Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green also thinks highly of the newly appointed commissioner. 

"The commissioner is a role-model position and I think that she fits within that very well," she said, adding that she hopes Thom's appointment will encourage other women to run for office. 

The commissioner position sat vacant for more than a year after George Tuccaro retired last May. Deputy commissioner Gerald Kisoun filled the position on an interim basis until now.

'I turned my life around'

Born and raised in Fort Providence, Thom worked a number of different jobs in her home community before enrolling in a counseling program at Aurora College in the mid 1990s.

It was there that she discovered her true calling — helping people around her.

"Life has not always been easy for me, I've had challenges and I've had addictions issues," she said. 

Margaret Thom is third woman to ever be appointed commissioner of the N.W.T. (Submitted by Margaret Thom)

But Thom didn't succumb to the challenges life threw at her. Instead, she found a way to rise above them. 

A wife and mother of four children, Thom decided to become a better role model for her family.

"I wanted to be a good, healthy role model for my children," she said. "Life can become better. I turned my life around and I was very interested in helping our community."

Thom has been a counselor at the Deh Gáh School in Fort Providence ever since she completed her schooling in the late 1990s.

She says there's a real need to help others in her community, which is why the field of counseling has always appealed to her.

"I just saw that we really needed help in that area," she said.

"Through my own role modelling of being an Aboriginal woman, and being from a small community, and how life can become difficult in small communities, and how I hope to exemplify that change is good, change can happen."

A long list of achievements 

The third woman to ever be appointed commissioner of the N.W.T., Thom has received a number of personal accolades over the years. 

She was presented with a Wise Women Award in 2000, was inducted into the N.W.T. Education Hall of Fame in 2012 and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal in 2013.

She also served as the territory's deputy commissioner from 2005 to 2011.

Despite those accomplishments, Thom says she never expected to be named commissioner.

"In my wildest dreams, I never thought that I would get selected for such a prestigious position," she said.

"I'm thankful and grateful that I'm in a position to serve the North, the Northern people, and be a good ambassador on their behalf.

"I'm going to do my best to be what people expect me to be."