April 25, 2023
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Commissioner Thom, Premier Cochrane, Elders, Chiefs, honoured guests.
With great respect, allow me to begin by acknowledging the Indigenous peoples who have lived on and cared for this part of the world for thousands of years. I thank them for welcoming us to their homeland.
Although I have been here many times before, it is a pleasure to be here in Yellowknife as Governor General on my very first official visit to the Northwest Territories. It is like coming home, and the warmth of your welcome is deeply appreciated.
I would like to thank you for your warm welcome. We are very happy to be here with you.
The beauty of the Northwest Territories goes beyond its landscapes, it resides within its people and communities.
For some, the North is an idea, a concept or an inspiration. But for us, it is quite simply our lives, our families and our livelihoods. I am so proud that tomorrow this region will take center stage as we welcome the President of Germany to the North.
Why is it important for people to see the North – or better yet, to experience the North? Because that is where you will see first-hand communities working together to face the challenges of the future in very tangible ways. It is here that we see the devastating effects of climate change, on communities, on economies, on people and on their way of life. It isn’t theoretical. It isn’t something that will happen in the future. It is happening today. As I said to the German delegation yesterday, our landscapes are telling us stories, and we can learn from them, and from each other, if we take the time to listen.
Listening to each other is something that is so crucial for us to do, whether it be for climate change or other challenges that we face. As Governor General it has been particularly important for me to listen. Listen to the stories that make up our country; listen to and learn from indigenous knowledge and experience. For far too long, our history books neglected key elements – and people – from our national narrative.
The North. Residential Schools. Indigenous Peoples.
People across Canada are now listening. I want to work with dedicated, resourceful and resilient people like yourselves to write a history of Canada that reflects the country we are – the good and the bad.
Education is key to this and the efforts of the Northwest Territories to teach the true history of Canada – embracing and promoting a reconciliation curriculum - serve as a model for our country.
After all, youth are not only our future, they are our present. We must invest in them, and more importantly, we must include them.
Too often we say we include youth, yet they are consulted in separate conversations and separate meetings. They should be at the table working out solutions to the challenges we face – all generations together.
Growing up in a small region in Nunavik, I learned the traditional ways of the Inuit through my mother and grandmother and learned how imperative it was to hold on to our roots - our language, our culture, and our traditions.
They are not just part of our identity; they are what make us who we are.
In Canada, more than 70 Indigenous languages are spoken, many of which are in danger of disappearing entirely. But there are signs of hope.
The Northwest Territories recognizes nine official indigenous languages, including my mother tongue Inuktitut.
It is our responsibility to ensure that we do not lose the great diversity in this country.
There is a word in Inuktitut that I use often in my work and in my life: ajuinnata. It is a vow, a promise, to never give up. Which is what we will do, together.
We will never give up fighting for nature and our environment;
We will never give up championing the importance of education, culture and language;
And, we will never give up working together to move forward on the path of reconciliation.