Visit to Kuujjuaq – Rendez-Vous 25

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January 13, 2024


I would like to thank my home community of Kuujjuaq for welcoming me back to our traditional land.

First, I want to applaud Avataq, Makivik, the Kativik Regional Government, Kativik, and Nunavik’s health and social services network for supporting our Inuktitut language and declaring that Inuktitut is the language of Nunavik. The more we use our language, the stronger it will get.

It is a pleasure to be here with all of you to celebrate the
25th anniversary of the Junior Canadian Rangers.

Kuujjuaq is a fitting place for this anniversary. Military routes are part of our recent history. In the 1940s, when it was Fort Chimo, this area became a U.S. Air Force base and part of the war effort. Later, in the 50s, Canada took over the airport and our old community on the other side of the river moved here. Our family was one of them.

Throughout my life, I’ve had the great fortune of meeting and knowing members of the Canadian Rangers. In fact, I have family and friends who chose to enlist. My father was one of the original Rangers in the North. During the Second World War, he provided information about both air and sea movements and the weather, which were vital for transatlantic military flights.

I have also had the privilege of meeting Rangers as governor general and commander-in-chief. Rangers not only serve their communities, but also care for them. And they have done so for more than 75 years. 

The Canadian Rangers are an essential part of the Canadian Armed Forces. They contribute to our security and sovereignty. They support search and rescue operations. And they help foster understanding, respect and reconciliation in northern and remote communities across Canada.

Some might say that being a ranger is a calling. Through your active participation as junior Canadian rangers, you are also answering that call. You are creating a better world for all peoples of the North.

Yesterday, it was a pleasure to see all of you, from so many places throughout the country, participate and compete in different activities like building improvised shelters. The skills you learn as junior rangers are important. What you learn has been passed down through the traditional knowledge of Inuit and other Indigenous peoples and other northerners. Some of these skills are essential to surviving and thriving in the harsh northern climates. And all of these skills will serve you well into adulthood.

As junior rangers, you are helping to shape your communities for the better, through your actions and your kindness.

All of you are shaping our future through your actions and your kindness.

Being a junior ranger means learning new skills and learning about nature, our lands and our waters. It means working together to solve problems. It means listening. It means opening yourself up to different cultures and ways of thinking.

When I see young people engaging with each other, with the community, with our Elders and leaders, it warms my heart.

Each of you is on a journey. A journey of discovery and growth. No matter where you go, with the Junior Rangers, with the Canadian Rangers, if you so choose, or in a different direction altogether, I want to leave you with a few thoughts about your future. 

First, take care of your mental health. 

As governor general, I have made mental health one of the priorities of my mandate. I speak from personal experience when I say that mental health needs to be treated with the same importance as physical health. Body and mind must work together.

For members of Indigenous communities and those living in remote communities here in the North, mental well-being is a critical part of survival. Isolation is keenly felt among residents living in communities that are hard to access year-round.

Yet there continues to be a lack of resources dedicated to addressing mental health concerns, particularly among our youth.

Hold on to what helps you, such as the bonds and friendship you form within the Junior Rangers.

Second, find what you love, what resonates with you, what drives you at your core. 

Growing up here in Kuujjuaq, I developed strong principles of equality and justice that led me to become an advocate for Inuit, for education and for the preservation of Indigenous languages. I saw how reconciliation was directly tied to mental health, healing, understanding, respect and community well-being.

I followed my passions, which led me directly to where and who I am now.

Third, engage respectfully with others.  

Your generation is one of the most diverse in our country’s history. And there is a great openness for reconciliation, for listening to each other, for having the hard conversations. Every day, I see young leaders breathing new life and perspectives into old debates. I would encourage all of you, as you engage in the challenges of today and tomorrow, to do so with open minds and hearts. There are many points of view, and you will not agree with all of them. But even when we disagree, we need to be respectful of others, and not let our own biases or stereotypes take over a conversation.

Every time we take the opportunity to listen to a different perspective, we grow as individuals and gain a better understanding of other peoples and cultures.

Finally, don’t forget who you are.

It can be easy to lose yourself as you grow up, to succumb to pressure, or to accept the judgement of others.  But remaining true to what is important to you will always help you navigate this complex world. It will serve as your compass when you aren’t sure which direction to choose. My compass was, and is, equality, and knowing deep within me, that I was worth as much as any other person.  And so are you.

I’m proud to be here to celebrate the past 25 years and to look forward to a bright future that includes all of you.

I wish all of you the very best as you continue to serve our northern communities.

Junior Canadian Rangers are an integral part of the North. I’m proud to be here to celebrate the past 25 years, and I look forward to a bright future that includes all of you.

Thank you to the organizers, supporters and leaders of this program, and thank you to all those who made this gathering possible. You continue to be champions of our young people, who are creating a better future for all Canadians.

I wish all of you the very best as you continue to serve our northern communities.

Thank you.