International Inuit Day event and Annie Pootoogook Park Naming Ceremony

November 7, 2021

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OTTAWA (Ontario)—Hello, bonjour, I would also like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people, who have lived on and cared for this part of the world for thousands of years.

Today, on, International Inuit Day, it’s only fitting that we honour a remarkable Inuk artist, Annie Pootoogook. It is a day that we should honour her and give thanks to those who organized this event.

We are here to honor Annie, the person and the artist.

Annie captured the Inuk way of life in images. She depicted how Inuit live, showcasing both the traditional, such as hunting, making bannock which I love to do or a community feast, and the more mundane moments, for example shopping at the co-op store or simply watching TV.

She presented to Canadians a point of view that is seldom seen, particularly outside of the North.

During her life, she experienced great, uplifting moments, such as winning the Sobey Art Award. She also struggled, grappling with mental health, addiction, homelessness and abuse.

As we mark Inuit Day, and as the first Inuk and Indigenous governor general, I want to draw attention to how Inuit artists, including Annie, depicted our people, and how we see ourselves.

We are active participants in sharing our culture, our language and the truth of our history.

We turn our adversity into strength, and Inuit across Canada’s Arctic, and in urban settings like here today, are finding ways to move forward.

Reconciliation is a process that does not have an end date. It requires work every day.

To be an Inuk governor general who is a governor general for all Canadians is a responsibility I don’t take lightly.

Today, I’m heartened by the fact that Inuit stories are starting to be seen and heard, through music, literature, research, environmental stewardship, new governance arrangements and new perspectives on Canada’s history. And, of course, through art.

Although Annie died tragically in 2016, she left behind a legacy of Inuit art, of promoting her Inuit heritage, of showing our people for who they are, the good and the bad.

Showing Canadians how we express our joy and our pain, our struggles and resilience. And how Inuit, like all Canadians, desire and deserve the same basic standards in life: respect, understanding, friendship, love, and the opportunity to grow and thrive in a healthy, safe environment.

Annie’s spirit lives on in all Inuit, particularly in her family and those she inspired to pursue their own passions. We are honoured that her daughter, Napachie, is here with us today.

Today, I am filled with hope for the future of all Inuit.

Welcome, all of you, to Annie Pootoogook Park. And happy International Inuit day.

Thank you. Merci. Miigwetch. Nakurmiik.