North

Former N.W.T. premier Cournoyea receives Northern Medal

Gov. Gen. Michäelle Jean presented the Northern Medal to Nellie Cournoyea on Monday evening, recognizing the former Northwest Territories premier's long and ongoing career.

Gov. Gen. Michäelle Jean presented the Northern Medal to Nellie Cournoyea on Monday evening, recognizing the former Northwest Territories premier's long and ongoing career.

At a ceremony in Inuvik, N.W.T., Jean praised Cournoyea for her work as an aboriginal negotiator, CBC broadcaster and longtime N.W.T. MLA who served as the territory's first female premier from 1991 to 1995.

As a negotiator, Cournoyea helped create the landmark 1984 land-claim agreement between the Inuvialuit people of the western Arctic and the federal government.

Cournoyea continues to represent the Inuvialuit, currently as chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corp. She was acclaimed to her seventh two-year term earlier this year.

"You did all of this without ever losing that part of you that is forever connected to a history, a culture, a knowledge dating back thousands of years," Jean said in a speech prior to awarding the medal to Cournoyea.

"I think, Nellie, that you represent the best of both worlds. This makes you a role model, particularly for the youth who are following in your footsteps."

Second recipient of award

Surrounded by family, friends and colleagues, Cournoyea beamed as she accepted the medal, but added that she really owes her success to many people.

"If you're talking about the leadership … a position, that's not the leadership that counts the most," she said. "It's the people around that leadership who are contributing and helping to reach a goal."

Cournoyea is only the second recipient of the Governor General's Northern Medal, which honours those who have made outstanding contributions to Canada's North.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuit environmental activist from the eastern Arctic, received the first Northern Medal from Jean's predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson, in 2005.

Watt-Cloutier, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize last year, received the Testimonial Award last week from the Public Policy Forum in Toronto. The award honours Canadians whose work has contributed to public policy and public management.

Monday evening's Northern Medal ceremony was part of Jean's vice-regal visit to Inuvik, which began Sunday and runs until Thursday.

'Make that dream become a reality,' Jean tells students

She visited a Gwich'in wellness camp earlier on Monday, as well as met with current N.W.T. Premier Floyd Roland and local leaders and elders.

Jean also went to an education forum, listening to dozens of high school students from across the Beaufort Delta.

Many students told the Governor General about high drop-out rates at their schools and raised concerns about how well the education system is treating them.

"It seems that students are lacking motivation in high school," said Chelsea Jacobsen, a high school student from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. "I would just ask, 'What can we do to resolve that?' "

Jean offered the students some advice at the end of the forum: "Go for something you are passionate about," she said. "Take that dream, pursue it, put all your efforts and talent to make that dream become a reality." 

On Tuesday, Jean is scheduled to give the keynote address at an Inuit education summit, as well as visit Inuvik's hospital and youth centre.

She will travel to Tuktoyaktuk for a day-long visit on Wednesday.

now