'I feel very honoured': Fort Providence's Margaret Thom new commissioner of N.W.T.

Margaret Thom - a respected counselor, educator and volunteer - has been appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Thom is a respected counselor, educator and volunteer in her community

Margaret Thom has worked as a counselor at Deh Gáh School in Fort Providence, N.W.T., for the past 20 years. She was deputy commissioner for the territory from 2005-11, and was appointed as commissioner on June 14, 2017. (Pat Kane/Tides Canada/Arctic Funders Collaborative)

The Northwest Territories's new territorial commissioner says she's "overwhelmed" by the support from her community and still can't believe she's been selected.

Margaret Thom, who was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday afternoon, says she's grateful to have been considered for the position, let alone selected. 

"I feel very honoured,"  Thom said.

"I've had nothing but good wishes and encouragement from many people, so I'm very, very appreciative of all the great wishes and congratulations."

'I'm a helper'

Thom has been a counselor at the Deh Gáh School in Fort Providence, N.W.T., for the past 20 years, "promoting the importance of education," she said.

She says she's always wanted to give back and help her community any way she can and that's why she showed interest in becoming the territorial commissioner.

"I wanted to continue to help at a different level," 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."

Giving back

Thom says that change is evident in her own life; she went to residential schools for her entire Grade-school years. 

She calls it something she "survived."

It was after those years that she decided to better her education and "give back to the community."

"It's challenging at times, but you know, you just have to be gentle with them, love them, and encourage them," Thom says of the students she works with as a counselor at the school in Fort Providence. 

Thom is the third woman to be appointed as commissioner of the Northwest Territories since the position came to be in 1919. 

Deputy commissioner Gerald Kisoun has been the interim commissioner for the territory since George Tuccaro retired in May 2016.

As commissioner, one of Thom's responsibilities will be to swear-in new MLAs and ministers into the legislative assembly.