Feb. 24 NAAF Gala honours Leona Aglukkaq, Minnie Grey, Violet Ford
And the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation becomes "Indspire"
Three Inuit women received National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation awards on Feb. 24 at a gala ceremony in Vancouver, B.C..
The awards, which celebrate excellence in the country’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, went to federal health minister and Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq in the field of politics, Nunatsiavut lawyer Violet Ford in law and justice, and Nunavik Regional Government negotiator Minnie Grey for her public service.
The foundation offered brief resumés of the three women’s achievements:
• Aglukkaq started her political career in Cambridge Bay, where she served six terms as a municipal councillor.
She then went on to serve in the Nunavut legislative assembly as the MLA for Nattilik, also sitting as minister of finance and minister of health and social services.
In 2008, Aglukkaq was elected MP for Nunavut and soon became the first Inuk to hold a position in federal cabinet, as minister of health.
Since then, Aglukkaq has led Canada’s response to the H1N1 pandemic and renewed $190 million in funding for the Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative.
Aglukkaq has “distinguished herself as a powerful political leader and negotiator,” said the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards Foundation, which co-ordinates the awards.
• Ford is the first Canadian Inuk woman to become a lawyer and the first aboriginal woman to become a lawyer in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Ford served as vice-president to the Inuit Circumpolar Council, where she was a legal policy advisor and negotiator on international and environmental issues.
Ford, an advisor on international indigenous rights, also helped to draft the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
Ford is currently a doctoral candidate in international law in Arctic regions at the University of Lapland in Finland.
“Much of her life has been devoted to protecting and advancing the rights of Indigenous people,” said a statement from the foundation.
• Grey has served in several roles to advance the social and economic conditions across her home region of Nunavik and throughout the country’s aboriginal communities, the foundation said.
Grey has served as a member of the National Aboriginal Health Organization, the Circumpolar Inuit Health steering committee and she remains chair of the Nunavik Regional Partnership Committee.
Recently, Grey headed the negotiations leading to the final agreement for the Nunavik Regional Government.
She has chaired the committee to address youth protection services in Nunavik and continues to work to implement recommendations from the 2008 Quebec Human Rights Commission report on Nunavik Youth.
“Minnie Grey is devoted to improving the quality of life for Inuit People in Nunavik and across the Arctic regions of Canada, the United States, Russia and Greenland,” said the foundation’s statement.
On Feb. 24 the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation also gave itself a new name, “Indspire,” a motto, “Indigenous education, Canada’s future.” and a new website.
“The new identity signals a new day for Indigenous education in Canada,” a news release said.
The National Aboriginal Achievement Awards will now be the “Indspire awards.”
“As the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, we were well-known for our work in recognizing Indigenous role models and achievement,” said Roberta Jamieson, Indspire president and CEO and Indspire awards executive producer. “Yet achievement is difficult without a quality education. This compelled us to play a more active role in improving and even transforming Indigenous education from the very onset of learning.”
Indspire plans to continue its activities, including the distribution of bursaries and scholarships.
Since 1985, the organization has awarded more than $42.7 million in scholarships and bursaries to more than 11,500 First Nations, Inuit and Métis students nationwide.