Honourable Senators, two momentous and impressive appointments were made in Ottawa this week. On Tuesday May 11, Mr. George Tuccaro was named Commissioner of the Northwest Territories and introduced by Prime Minister Harper, and on Wednesday Ms. Edna Elias was named Commissioner of Nunavut. I have been privileged to have known both of them for many years, and I wish to commend the Prime Minister, not only for the wisdom of these excellent appointments, but secondly for announcing that he considers the Territorial Commissioners as akin to provincial Lieutenant Governors. This is another step forward in the constitutional development of the territories.

George Tuccaro is a much beloved longtime CBC Announcer, a raconteur with a rich sense of humour, compassion for his fellow citizens and pride in his Metis heritage. Tuccaro worked for CBC Radio in Yellowknife as an announcer for many years. He hosted Trail’s End, CBC Radio’s popular drive-home afternoon program in the NWT in the early 1990’s, where he was fondly known for signing off with the memorable phrase: “And remember to check the date on your bacon!”

Ms. Elias, who grew up in Kugluktuk, formerly Coppermine, first came to my attention in the early 1980s as a young graduate of the teacher education program, when she accepted a teaching job in far away Arctic Bay, on the north coast of Baffin Island, and then years later, when she returned home to become principal of the school in Kugluktuk, where she strengthened the teaching of Innuinaqtun at the school. Later, I worked with Ms. Elias when she was Director of the Language Bureau and I was Minister Responsible for the Department of Culture and Communications in the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Ms. Elias is known as a champion of the Innuinaqtun language, the dialect of Inuit from the Kitikmeot Region.

As our MP for Nunavut, the Hon. Leona Aglukkaq, said upon Ms. Elias’ appointment: “Her commitment to preserve and promote Inuinnaqtun in Nunavut over the years shows her sincere dedication to Nunavummiut.” In welcoming Ms. Elias to the Chamber today, I wish to commend the Prime Minister for his excellent choices for these important positions and for the respect to the emerging status of the territories in comparing Commissioners to Lieutenant Governors in the eyes of the Prime Minister of Canada. I see this as yet is another step in developing the governance pillar of our Government’s Northern Strategy.  I very much look forward to working with Commissioners Tuccaro and Elias in the continuing political and economic development of the north and I look forward to working with Prime Minister Harper and his government, who see the potential of the north to contribute enormously to the creation of wealth and enhancement of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.

In closing, I would also like to pay tribute to Commissioner Ann Mikijuk Hanson, who recently retired and carried out her duties with devotion and passion. Ms. Hanson brought a lifetime of experience as a social worker, broadcaster, community activist, actress and mother.

I also want to honour just retired NWT Commissioner and former cabinet colleague and friend. Tony Whitford had a lifetime of experience in all walks of life, including as MLA and cabinet minister in the Government of the NWT. His humour and good will brought dignity and humanity to the office of Commissioner.

 

Statement – Appointment of Commissioner of NWT and Commissioner of Nunavut