Governor General Mary Simon’s visit highlights the cultural dynamism of Nunavik


Governor General Mary Simon ended her visit to Nunavik after meeting hundreds of people and highlighting Inuit culture and community programs, and even visited her home community.

The visit began in Kuujjuaq, where Simon met with Inuit leaders and community members.

CBC North’s Pauline Pemik followed Simon’s visit, which Simon described as a homecoming.

“As we descended, it took me back to my childhood and how excited we would be to come home,” she said.

Simon shakes hands with well-wishers upon his arrival in Inukjuak, Quebec. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

First on the agenda, a visit to Makivik Corp., the main Inuit organization in Nunavik that was created to represent Inuit in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the first modern comprehensive land claim in Canada.

Simon met with the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, the Kativik Ilisarniliriniq School Board and the Qarjuit Youth Council, all of which were formed under the agreement.

They discussed education, self-determination, wellness and mental health.

Simon headed to Kattitavik Town Hall, where the Canadian Rangers greeted her before her meeting with the mayor.

Simon shakes hands with students lined in the hallway as she arrives at Innalik School Thursday in Inukjuak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Simon was treated to lunch hosted by Lucy Johannes of the Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre, the only family healing facility in the North that offers recovery programs to Inuit.

Isuarsivik combines traditional Inuit practices with modern additions and trauma treatment. It was founded in 1994 but closed in the early 2000s due to funding issues. He recently won the Arctic Inspiration Award.

Simon has heard from Inuit who have taken the program, which is designed by and for Inuit, has transformed their lives and helped them achieve sobriety.

A woman shows her phone to a photo with Simon as she arrives at the airport in Inukjuak, Quebec. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
A woman prepares a sealskin using a traditional ulu at the Unaaq Men’s Association last Thursday in Inukjuak, Quebec. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Simon then went to Jaanimmarik High School where she met some students.

“What did you have to do to become Governor General?” asked one of the children, causing laughter in the room.

Simon also visited the Elders at the Tusaajiapik Elders’ Home.

Simon took advantage of his visit to Nunavik to highlight the disparities in Internet access for Nunavut communities and the marginalization of Indigenous languages.

Go home

Simon also flew back to her birthplace, Kangiqsualujjuaq, where she visited Elders, went to Ulluriaq School and Kuururjuaq National Park.

Simon met with the staff and board of Qarmaapik House, a parent and child shelter to help keep families together and reduce the number of Inuit children entering the child welfare system.

Governor General Mary Simon is greeted by Harriet Keleutak, Director General of the Kativik School Board, upon her arrival for a roundtable with northern organizations, Monday, May 9, 2022 in Kuujjuaq, Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Simon attends a demonstration on making dog sled harness ropes from seals as she visits the Unaaq Men’s Association Thursday in Inukjuak. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Program staff spoke to Simon and her husband Whit Fraser about their struggles getting started in 2016. The shelter has mental health services, a kitchen and programs.

Qarmaapik also does the work of educating a traveling workforce of child protection and police workers about the services they provide, and they train people in all of Nunavik’s communities to they build the same resources there.

She ended the day with a party with her friends and family, where she played the accordion.

Simon and her husband Whit Fraser watch throat singers perform while visiting Innalik School Thursday in Inukjuak. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

To Inukjuak

The last leg of his trip to Kangirsuk was canceled due to bad weather, but Simon made it to Inukjuak.

There, Simon visited the Avataq Cultural Institute and the Unaaq Men’s Association and the school.

She served food at the community feast and met with youth and elders before making her final stop in Kuujjuaq.

Simon listens to Sandy Emudluk and Janice Parsons perform as he arrives at the Qarmak of the Isuarsivik Recovery Center at the Trois Lacs site in Kuujjuaq, Que., last Monday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Whit Fraser watches an elder shake Simon’s hand at the start of a meeting with council members in Inukjuak, Quebec. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

A woman shakes hands with Simon as she helps Sirvivik staff and volunteers serve food to residents at a community feast in Inukjuak, Quebec. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Governor General Mary Simon chats with Canadian Rangers during her visit Monday parade in Kuujjuaq, Quebec. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Governor General Mary Simon wipes her eyes listening to a story as she toured the Qarmak at the Isuarsivik Recovery Center at the Three Lakes site in Kuujjuaq, Que., on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)