November 7, 2021
OTTAWA— I am a proud Inuk, born in Nunavik, Quebec, in Canada’s Arctic. There are approximately 15 000 Inuit living in 15 communities across Nunavik.
The stories of my life are anchored in my love of my maternal language—Inuktitut—and the traditional ways of our people, the Inuit. Living off the land and waters—hunting, fishing and gathering food—was the foundation of my early life. Some of my favourite moments are of laying in our tents along the George River, on a bed of spruce boughs and caribou skins, listening to the birds singing early in the morning and the dogs barking and playing in the snow. These are fond memories of my younger years.
But like all stories, there are sombre chapters that have shaped my life experiences. Chapters that saw Inuktitut and the traditional Inuit way of life deeply affected by colonialism; the landscape of my own happy early memories absent from the Canadian narrative.
Yet, adversity often leads to strength, and the Inuit across Canada’s Arctic have found ways to move forward. We worked together to create the new territory of Nunavut, a home for the Inuit living there. And we have worked to promote understanding and healing, knowing that we must not relax our drive for positive change and that we must take back our traditional values and rights. We are committed to sharing a culture and language that reflects the vibrancy of my youth. I am heartened by the fact that our stories are starting to be seen and heard, through music, art, literature, research, environmental stewardship, new governance arrangements and new perspectives on Canada’s history.
When I was appointed governor general—the first Indigenous person to hold this position—it filled me with pride to know that I could speak loudly and proudly about my life and my experiences, about Inuit and other Indigenous peoples, and that I could share this with all Canadians. To be an Inuk Governor General who is governor general for all Canadians is a responsibility I do not take lightly.
As Canada moves forward on reconciliation, we must all make every effort to acknowledge and deal with the more sombre chapters of our collective history—the truth of our history. Reconciliation is a way of life, with no end date. I am not here to tell you that it will be easy. I am here to say that is necessary.
As we mark International Inuit Day, I am excited for the promise of our future and how we are moving forward, together.
Rideau Hall Press Office