National Selection Committee

The Arctic Inspiration Prize National Selection Committee is composed of distinguished individuals known for their commitment to the Canadian Arctic and its Peoples. Committee members from the North and South, represent aboriginal and non-aboriginal organizations, governments, NGOs, the private sector, as well as the artistic, cultural and scientific communities. Their unique contribution and expertise are central to the success and aspirations of the Arctic Inspiration Prize.

Photo of AIP National Selection Committee for 2019 (missing: Dominique Girard)

AIP National Selection Committee for 2019 (missing: Dominique Girard)

2019 Members

(Alphabetical order)

Mathieya Alatini

Mathieya Alatini
Former Chief, Kluane First Nation


Mathieya Alatini is an experienced leader with a tireless work ethic and a strong voice. She's known for vision, trailblazing and a no-nonsense approach to overcoming obstacles to get things done.

Mathieya is from Burwash Landing and has extensive family throughout the Yukon. She was raised traditionally, having lived in both small towns and large cities, giving her the unique understanding necessary to bridge both worlds.

She has experience working with federal, territorial and First Nations governments. Mathieya holds a Degree in commerce from University of Victoria, and like many Yukoners has worked in several different industries throughout her career, ranging from tourism to construction and mining. Her experience serving as the Chief of Kluane First Nation from 2010-2016 gave Mathieya experience building a local economy, moving towards energy self-sufficiency and creating food security through building community. She continues to support communities through local, pan-northern and national boards and committees such as NRCan's GEM2 AGN, EntrepreNorth, the National and Regional Selection Committees of the Arctic Inspiration Prize and KFN's Constitution Committee.

The connection and pride she feels calling beautiful Kluane country home is a foundational motivator to her work in Yukon, across the North and the rest of Canada. Her vision is to create and support opportunities for social and economic growth in a way that will ensure our environment is here for future generations.

Alicia Aragutak


Bio to come...

Topsy Banksland

Topsy Banksland
Ulukhaktok, ISR, Northwest Territories


Topsy Banksland is from Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories and feels lucky to live in place where it is easy to go out on the land for little hikes and visit her family’s cabin during the summer. In the winter, she hikes with her dogs to the bluffs surrounding the community. Her educational background includes General Studies and Multimedia Communications at Yukon College, and she has also completed three Northern Youth Abroad Programs. She is a member of the Inuvialuit Regional Youth Advisory Group as the Ulukhaktok Representative and is also a part of the Uqarluta Inuinnaqtun group as a youth representative. Topsy is passionate about travelling, and she takes every opportunity to go out on the land. She loves learning more about her culture and traditional stories and feels that there is still much more to learn. She also loves reading about Inuit and their involvement in shipping expeditions that happened in the North. When she has the time, she likes to learn more about how to bead, and sew; especially with her friends.  She is currently enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan in the Linguistics, Speech and Language Sciences Stream to pursue a career in Speech Language Pathology. She plans on working with Inuinnaqtun and Inuvialuktun dialects and creating content in the future, as she has always been interested in Inuit dialects and hopes to be a part of language revitalization across the Arctic.

Shelby Blackjack

Shelby Blackjack
Senior Advisor in Implementation and Reconciliation, Government of Yukon


Residing in the Yukon with her young daughter and an active member of the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, Shelby is a recognized role model, artist, academic, activist and educator of Northern Tutchone descent. Building strong community connections and cultural programs within the areas of arts, education and cultural traditions is present in every aspect of her life. Shelby is known for gathering and sharing her knowledge in these areas with anyone who is willing to learn. She comes from a long line of artisans and storytellers, and loves to share the history behind the traditional art forms that she teaches. Shelby holds a Masters of Education in Leadership from SFU and has worked towards her PHD in Indigenous Governance from University of Victoria, pausing her studies to move back north when her daughter was born. She currently works with the department of Aboriginal Relations as a Senior Advisor in Implementation and Reconciliation for the Yukon Government.


Cody Dean
President, Canadrill Ltd., Dean Utility Services Inc.


Bio to come

Leela Gilday

Leela Gilday


A passionate singer/songwriter and soulful performer, Leela Gilday has a voice that comes straight from the heart. Confessing her stories to her audiences with a gutsy voice and open stage presence, Gilday weaves her experiences as a Northerner, a member of the Dene nation, and a traveler into a beautiful world that transports the listener.

With four full-length recordings and a long touring history, Gilday has numerous awards to her credit, including a Juno, two Western Canadian Music Awards, Aboriginal Female Entertainer of the Year to name a few. Above all, she seeks connection with her audiences through music, and with each record brings more unique stories to the world. Whether it’s an anthem for the oppressed, or an upbeat song about mortality, she infuses her songs with a sense of humour as well as a sense of social justice, and an ironic appreciation of human folly.

Based out of Yellowknife, NT, Leela has toured festivals and concert halls with her four-piece band through every province and territory in Canada. She has also played internationally in several countries including Japan, US, Greenland, Denmark, and New Zealand. Her live shows, and many appearances on television and radio have earned her an important place in the Aboriginal music scene, as well as a loyal mainstream following.

Her record “Heart of the People” (fall 2014) resonates with the heartbeat of the earth and the connection we all have to it as human beings.

(Photo credit: Nadya Kwandibens)

Dominique Girard

Dominique Girard
Vice President, Nunavut Operations - Agnico Eagle


Mr. Girard is the Vice-President, Nunavut for Agnico Eagle and has held this position since 2015. Prior to his appointment, he held various roles including General Manager at the Meadowbank mine, Mill Superintendent at the Kittila mine and most recently Corporate Director with the Business Strategy and the Technical Services group. He graduated with an engineering degree in mineral processing (B.Sc.) from Université Laval and is a member of the OI.

David Johnston

The Right Honourable David Johnston
The 28th governor general of Canada


David Johnston was born in Copper Cliff, near Sudbury, Ontario on June 28, 1941, the son of Dorothy Stonehouse and Lloyd Johnston, the retail manager of a local hardware store.

Mr. Johnston attended Harvard University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1963, twice being selected to the All-American hockey team on his way to being named to Harvard’s athletic hall of fame. He later obtained Bachelor of Laws degrees from the University of Cambridge and Queen’s University.

Mr. Johnston’s professional career began in 1966 as assistant professor in the Queen’s University law faculty. He moved on to the University of Toronto’s law faculty in 1968, and became dean of Western University’s law faculty in 1974. He was named principal and vice- chancellor of McGill University in 1979, serving for fifteen years before returning to teaching as a full-time professor in the McGill Faculty of Law. In June 1999, he became the fifth president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo, serving until 2010. He is married to Sharon Johnston, with whom he has five daughters. They are grandparents to 14 grandchildren.

When David Johnston became governor general, he called upon all Canadians to join in the building of a smarter, more caring nation. His seven-year viceregal mandate—the third longest in Canadian history— was characterized by inclusiveness, dedication, energy and ambition in quest of a smarter, more caring Canada and a better world.

David Johnston was the 28th governor general of Canada, from October 1, 2010, to October 2, 2017.

(Photo credit: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall © OSGG-BSGG 2015)

Ruth Kaviok

Ruth Kaviok
Former President, National Inuit Youth Council


Ruth is a 19-year-old Inuk youth from Arviat, Nunavut. She advocates for suicide prevention, climate change prevention and the importance of education. In 2016, Ruth was John Arnalukjuak High School’s Inuktitut valedictorian. Nationally, Ruth won Samara’s Everyday Political Citizen award for drawing on Inuit knowledge and western science to spread awareness of how climate change is affecting Inuit Nunangat.

In addition to her community involvement, Ruth is developing her entrepreneurial skills through the Inspire Nunavut Program. She is creating a business plan for a hydroponics greenhouse business. Her goal is to offer affordable options to her community by selling fresh produce grown in Arviat. Ruth has been accepted to Nunavut Sivuniksavut in Ottawa for the fall of 2017 and she is eager to learn more about the history of Inuit and Nunavut through this program.

Sarah Leo

Sarah Leo
Vice President of Corporate Development, Nunatsiavut Group of Companies & Former President, Nunatsiavut Government


Sarah Leo lives in Nain, Nunatsiavut. After serving 20 years in the Canadian Forces, Sarah moved back home. Since moving back, she has served as AngajukKak (Mayor) for the Inuit Community of Nain, worked with the OKalakatiget Communications Society, and President of Nunatsiavut. Currently, Sarah is Vice President of Corporate Development for the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies.


Lisa Loseto
Research Scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada


Dr. Lisa Loseto is a Research Scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Winnipeg with the Arctic Aquatic Research Division. Lisa’s research focuses on characterizing beluga health as means to understand ecosystem health in the Western Canadian Arctic. She combines food web biotracers and habitat modeling to gain insight into predator-prey interactions and ecosystem energetics. Her research on beluga health and habitat use combines Western science and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). Dr. Loseto’s research programs are carried out in partnership with communities and co-management boards of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. She strives to serve all Canadians by providing knowledge and advice to decision makers and by helping to empower the people of the north through scientific knowledge combined with their own knowledge of their ecosystem and home.

Arnold Witzig

Arnold Witzig (ex-officio)
Co-Founder, Arctic Inspiration Prize


Arnold Witzig, together with his partner Sima Sharifi, is the founder of the Arctic Inspiration Prize and the S. and A. Inspiration Foundation. For several years, they studied and supported projects in the fields of education and gender equality in the developing world. In 2011 they decided to focus the work of the foundation in Canada, their homeland of choice.

Born in 1949 in Switzerland, Witzig was raised in modest circumstances on a small family farm. He graduated as an architect and gradually realized he could implement a more effective planning and implementation process for architectural projects. He understood that economic, environmental, architectural, technical and social needs had to be integrated in order to succeed, especially for complex industrial projects. After becoming the head of a small architectural firm at 31, Witzig started to carry out his vision to create a unique and comprehensive service by bringing together all the necessary specialists from different areas of expertise into a new business unit that focused on the print and media industry. Over a period of 18 years, the company that emerged, the IE Engineering Group, implemented the same business strategy in the plastics, food, life science and later high-tech industries. From its base in Zurich, IE grew rapidly and expanded to Munich, Geneva, Leipzig and later Frankfurt.

As Arnold Witzig approached 50, IE had become the market leader and was full of young talent. With his business goals achieved, it was time for a change. In 1998 he handed over the IE Group to its team members, representing three different language and cultural regions. Today every employee is an owner, no one person has majority control, and the same business model has been successfully maintained. In 1999, he said goodbye to his two grown up children, family, friends and his life as entrepreneur in Europe and flew to Vancouver, not knowing that it would soon become his new home. The same year, Arnold met his dream partner, friend, lover and wife Sima, who originally came from Iran.

Since moving to Canada, Arnold has explored the world intensively, on land while climbing and traveling, in the air, flying aerobatics and gliding and in the water, scuba-diving. He is the second Canadian and only Swiss who has completed the Explorers Grand Slam, which includes climbing each of the highest summits of the seven continents, incl. Everest and skiing to the South Pole and to the North Pole. He explored the Arctic regions in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Scandinavia and continues exploring to learn more about the challenges and the opportunities of the Arctic and its peoples.

Past Members

Eva Aariak

Eva Aariak
Former Premier of Nunavut


Ms. Eva Qamaniq Aariak is a passionate advocate for the prosperity of Nunavut and tireless promoter of the Inuit culture, she is from a generation of Inuit who have lived through an era of tumultuous change that transformed life in the Arctic. And through her vision and energy has served as the first woman premier of Nunavut from 2008 to 2013.

Under Ms. Aariak’s leadership, the Government of Nunavut focused on improving conditions for the most vulnerable. Guided by the Tamapta Mandate, Ms. Aariak worked with communities and stakeholders to create The Makimaniq Plan, a made-in-Nunavut approach to reduce poverty. She spearheaded pioneering legislation on poverty reduction and child protection. Ms. Aariak also successfully sought adoption of the Inuit Language Protection Act based on recommendations that she had previously made when Commissioner of Languages from 1999-2003. Her recommendations prompted the government to write a groundbreaking law, the Inuit Language Protection Act.

Prior to her political career, Ms. Aariak led a varied career as a business owner, as Nunavut’s first languages commissioner, teacher, adult educator, producer of Inuktitut children’s books, Human Resource Officer and radio and television reporter for CBC North. In the years leading up to the creation of Nunavut, Ms. Aariak worked as a Communications Manager with the Office of the Interim Commissioner on a series of creative initiatives aimed at capturing the public’s hopes and desires for the future. Ms. Aariak is a recent recipient of the EVE Award, Presented by Equal Voice, and was named a Visionary Canadian by the “Bold Vision, Women’s Leadership Conference.” In 2014.

Eva Aariak continues to advocate for “completing the map of Canada” by strengthening the ties between Nunavut and the rest of the country. She is a proud grandmother of four: Tasiana, Joyce, James Aliguq and Benjamin.

Susan Aglukark

Susan Aglukark, O.C.
Inuk singer, songwriter and Juno Award winner


Susan Aglukark is one of Canada’s most unique and most honored artists. An Inuk from Arviat, Nunavut, Susan has been walking in a tension between two worlds, a defining note in her remarkable career.

The fine boned beauty with the pure voice who wrote and performed songs in both English and Inuktitut very suddenly found herself in the limelight in the early 1990’s with the release of her first album Arctic Rose. Her music—a timeless kind of pop music with lyrics that dealt with subject matter of real depth and humanity—was embraced in Canada and internationally.

She was a rare and exotic presence in the mainstream music world—an Inuk woman, a modern woman, a strong woman with something important to say is sometimes very rare in the entertainment industry — Susan embodied pure, graceful honesty and strength. As her songs climbed the charts, her stories and her candor about the struggles of the Inuit and Aboriginal communities, and her bravery as she opened up about her own anger and struggle won her an audience beyond that of most pop artists.

Aglukark’s musical success is even more interesting when you realize she didn’t start her career until she was 24, with no modern musical orthodoxy to draw on Aglukark was free to respond to the sounds and styles that touched or motivated or inspired her

Susan Aglukark is quickly becoming a highly sought after motivational speaker and workshop facilitator. Combining her music with her keynotes and workshops, Susan blends her singing with her messages of hope and history on her people the Inuit of Arctic Canada. Susan’s keynotes while singing and speaking about her culture also address universal issues such as social problems, health problems in aboriginal communities and it’s links to rapid change, how to cope with rapid change, the effects of colonization along with many other issues.

Awards include:

  • Awarded the Governor Generals Order of Canada in 2005
  • Awarded Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal February 2012
  • Juno Awards (3)
  • First-ever Aboriginal Achievement Award in Arts & Entertainment
  • Canadian Country Music Association’s (CCMA) Vista Rising Star Award
  • Native American Music Award
  • Canadian Aboriginal Music Award
  • Honorary Degrees in Law from the University of Alberta and the Calgary University
  • Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Lethbridge University
  • Northerner of the Year – 1995
Michel Allard

Michel Allard
Professor, Centre for Northern Studies, Université Laval


A professor in the Department of Geography of Laval University since 1975 and a researcher at Centre d’études nordiques, Michel Allard first is a geomorphologist, Quaternary geologist, ecologist and humanist at heart. He got involved into permafrost research and became an expert while doing a career over the territory of Nunavik. With a team of graduate students and research professionals, he carries fundamental research projects on the physical processes of permafrost formation under past and current climates, on ground thermal regime and on the impacts of permafrost thawing both in the natural environment and under engineered infrastructures. From 1987 onwards, he involved himself in applied permafrost research through his work in the Nunavik airport construction program of the Government of Québec. Over time, his activities were extended to the Inuit communities of Nunavik starting from the case of Salluit which sits in a particularly difficult permafrost context. He now works also in communities of Nunavut doing studies in support of adaptation to climate change and construction of housing and infrastructures. He is member of advising committees, on Canada’s northern transportation infrastructures and in the mining industry. One of his major current projects aims at developing tutorials for Inuit communities, colleges and high schools for learning the basics of permafrost science and engineering in order to build capacity in the North for decision making on land management and economic development.

He was the chief editor of Arctic Net’s Nunavik and Nunatsiavut Integrated Regional Impact Study. Within the NSERC-funded major Canadian research program “Arctic Development and Adaptation on Permafrost in Transition” (ADAPT), he is leader of module 1 entitled "Permafrost dynamics in natural and engineered environments”.

Michel was awarded the “Roger Brown Memorial Award” of the Canadian Geotechnical Society in 1998 for his contributions to permafrost science and engineering. He received the Northern Science Award of Arboriginal Affairs and Northern development Canada in 2006.

Nellie J. Cournoyea

Nellie J. Cournoyea
Former Chair, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation & Former Premier of the Northwest Territories


Nellie Cournoyea is the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC). The corporation was established in 1985 with the mandate to receive the Inuvialuit lands and financial compensation resulting from the 1984 land claim settlement. Today it has assets in excess of $750 million.

Before her election as Chair of IRC, Ms. Cournoyea was Premier of the Northwest Territories for four years beginning November 1991. She represented the riding of Nunakput from 1979 to November 1995 serving in the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly.

Born in Aklavik in 1940, Ms. Cournoyea was educated through the federal Aklavik Day School by Alberta correspondence courses. She worked at CBC Inuvik for nine years as an announcer and station manager and was a land claim fieldworker for the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK). Ms. Cournoyea was a founding member, and later administrator and land rights worker, of the Committee of Original Peoples’ Entitlement (COPE).

Ms. Cournoyea is the recipient of honorary doctorates in Law with Lakehead University 1995, Carleton University 1996, University of Toronto 1996, University of Lethbridge 2001 and University of Alberta 2004.

Awards and honours received include:

  • Canadian Energy Person of the Year (Energy Council of Canada), 2004
  • Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business, Hall of Fame, 2008
  • Northern Medal Award (Governor General of Canada), 2008
  • Officer of the Order of Canada (Governor General of Canada), 2008
  • Nellie Cournoyea Arctic Research Facility established (University of Manitoba), 2013

Current appointments include:

  • Vice-Chair of the Canadian Polar Commission
  • Vice-Chair of the Nutrition North Canada Advisory Board
  • Executive Member of the Aboriginal Pipeline Working Group
Martin Fortier

Martin Fortier
Executive Director, Sentinel North


Martin Fortier completed his Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography at Université Laval in 1999. From 1999 to 2003, he was the scientific coordinator of two large Arctic research networks involving more than 120 leading experts in Arctic science from 10 Canadian universities, 4 federal departments, and 9 foreign countries. In 2002, Dr. Fortier was heavily involved in the implementation of the refit and modification of the CCGS Amundsen into a state-of–the–art research icebreaker. Dr. Fortier has since served as chief scientist on 7 expeditions onboard the CCGS Amundsen, including its inaugural voyage in 2003.

Dr. Fortier was appointed as Executive Director of the ArcticNet Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE) in the fall of 2003. As the world’s largest national Arctic research network, ArcticNet brings together over 1000 scientists and managers in the natural, human health and social sciences with their partners in Inuit organizations, northern communities, government and industry to help Canadians face the impacts and opportunities of climate change and globalization in the Arctic.

In 2012, Dr. Fortier led the development of the Arctic Inspiration Prize ( together with the Prize’s founders. The $1 million CAD Prize is awarded annually and is made possible through the generous endowment of the S. and A. Inspiration Foundation, the commitment of ArcticNet to voluntarily manage the Prize, as well as the contribution of numerous partners. The Prize recognizes and promotes the extraordinary contribution made by teams in the gathering of Arctic knowledge and their plans to implement this knowledge into real world applications for the benefit of the Canadian Arctic and its Peoples.

As ArcticNet Executive Director, Dr. Fortier participates in numerous high-level national and international science and policy conferences on Arctic issues. In recent years, he has given over 70 presentations on topics such as climate change impacts on Arctic ecosystems, international research collaboration, industry-academia collaborations, Integrated Regional Impact Assessments, Arctic observing networks, Arctic shipping and Arctic security.

Dr. Fortier currently serves on numerous national and international boards and committees, including that of the Norwegian Arctic Frontiers Conference, the Northern Contaminants Program, Amundsen Science, Arctrain, Sentinel North, the Arctic Inspiration Prize and the Polar Medal.

Erin Freeland Ballantyne

Erin Freeland Ballantyne
Rhodes scholar and founder of Dechinta: Bush University Centre for Research and Learning


Erin Freeland Ballantyne was born and raised in So`mba K’è / Yellowknife on Akaitcho territory and was the first Rhodes Scholar from the Canadian North. Erin holds a BA Honors in International Development Studies at McGill University and Msc in Environmental Policy from Oxford. Her PhD (Oxford) investigated the disjuncture between climate change and its effect on human security and health amidst a regional focus on oil and gas extraction in the arctic. Working with a participatory video research team of youth the research identified critical gaps in approaches to educational as barriers to healthy and sustainable communities. Driven by these findings, Erin began to mobilize support around the decades old concept of a northern university and founded Dechinta Bush University Centre for Research and Learning. Now delivering its third year of programming, Dechinta offers land -based university semesters, intensive field courses and executive training on critical northern issues. Erin has worked as a community organizer for the Arctic Indigenous Alliance, participatory video trainer in communities across the arctic and as a researcher in South America, Africa and Asia. Committed to transformational education rooted in service and intergenerational-equity, Erin is a proud mother, documentary filmmaker, adventure traveler, and steering committee member of Canada’s Three Oceans Northwest Passage research team.

Peter Harrison

Peter Harrison
Professor, Stauffer-Dunning Chair and Director, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University


Dr. Peter Harrison is Professor, Stauffer-Dunning Chair and Director of the School of Policy Studies (SPS) at Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario). From 2008-2009 he was the Skelton-Clark Fellow in the School.

Dr. Harrison’s career as a senior member of the Public Service of Canada lasted nearly 30 years. During this time he served as the Deputy Minister (Permanent Secretary) of a number of federal Departments including Natural Resources Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Leadership Network, the National Research Council of Canada (Senior Research Fellow, Oceans) and Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada.

Dr. Harrison was responsible for shepherding the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by the Government of Canada in 2003; the investment of $150 million in the International Polar Year; and, as Senior Associate Deputy Minister of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, the development of the Government’s current Northern Strategy, the commitment to a new “High Arctic research Station”, and the Canada-UK Memorandum of Understanding regarding Arctic Research.

Dr. Harrison has also served as Associate and Assistant Deputy Minister in a variety of Departments, including: the Department of Finance, Human Resources Development Canada, and Revenue Canada. From 1989-1992 he was Secretary to the Priorities and Planning, Operations, and Expenditure Review Committees of the federal Cabinet in the Privy Council Office. Dr. Harrison is a Geographer by profession. He holds a B.A. Hon. (1st cl.) from the London School of Economics and Political Science; an M.A. from the University of Victoria (British Columbia), and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington (Seattle). From 1973-1981 he was a Professor in the Department of Geography and Regional Planning at the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Harrison’s research, writing and teaching focus on ocean and coastal management with particular reference to the Arctic Ocean and Arctic policy. He is a Fellow, Governor and Vice President of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and was awarded the Gold Medal celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution to Public Service. Dr. Harrison is also a recipient of the J.B. Nicholls award for his lifetime contributions to ocean and coastal management in Canada and around the world.

The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean

The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, P.C., C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.
Secretary General of La Francophonie, Co-President of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, Chancellor of the University of Ottawa, former Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada and former UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti.


The Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. After fleeing the brutal regime of Dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, she arrived in Canada, with her family, as a refugee in 1968. Excelling in school, she pursued undergraduate and graduate studies in Italian and Hispanic languages, literature and comparative literature at the University of Montreal, where she taught at the Faculty of Italian Studies.

During her studies, Ms. Jean worked for 10 years with shelters for battered women, helping to establish a network of emergency shelters across Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. She later became an award-winning journalist and anchor of news programs at Radio-Canada and CBC. Ms. Jean also took part in several documentary films produced by her husband, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond.

In 2005, Mme Jean became Canada’s 27th Governor General and Commander-in-Chief. Throughout her mandate, she promoted dialogue and community engagement among citizens, with particular emphasis on empowering youth. A fervent practitioner of cultural diplomacy, she led forty missions and State visits in Afghanistan, China, as well as across Africa, the Americas and Europe. She is fluent in five languages—French, English, Italian, Spanish, Creole—and fluently reads Portuguese.

Mme Jean is now Co-President of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti, Grand Témoin de la Francophonie for the London 2012 Olympic Games, and Chancellor of the University of Ottawa.

Peter Johnston

Peter Johnston
Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations


Bio coming soon.

Thomas Johnston

Thomas Johnston
Former President, National Inuit Youth Council


Thomas Johnston was born in Puvirnituq, Nunavik (northern Quebec) and moved around a lot during his younger years until his family settled in Igloolik, Nunavut, when he was 9. There he graduated from high school and moved to Ottawa to take the Nunavut Sivuniksavut program, which he took both first and second year. Since then he has been involved in many youth and art projects, from regional youth gatherings, to running national ones, from demonstrating Inuit traditional games at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics to drum dancing for the Queen at Windsor Palace. Thomas was the National Inuit Youth Council President from 2013 to 2015 and is a producer for 3 television shows that air nationally in Inuktitut, his mother-tongue Mr. Johnston now resides in Iqaluit with his two daughters.

Kyla Kakfwi-Scott

Kyla Kakfwi-Scott
Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Social Services, Government of the Northwest Territories


Kyla Kakfwi Scott believes in the importance of culture and the value of all forms of knowledge. The child of an aboriginal and non-aboriginal parent, it has been her constant goal to achieve balance between her two cultures, to learn as much as possible, and to carry that knowledge proudly. Kyla sees a need to increase opportunities for dialogue and cultural understanding in order to live respectfully amongst each other. To that end, she has worked since 2009 as the Program Manager for Dechinta: Bush University & Centre for Research and Learning. This land-based, university accredited program covers critical Northern issues, from a Northern perspective, taught by elders and academic experts.

Kyla was born and raised in Denendeh. She has travelled extensively throughout Northern and Southern Canada with her parents; former NWT Premier Stephen Kakfwi, and Commissioner Marie Wilson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Kyla attended the Pearson Seminar on Youth Leadership at Lester B. Pearson College and studied Media, Information and Technoculture at The University of Western Ontario. Since returning to Denendeh, Kyla has served on the Design Team of Back to the Future 2002, a national symposium re-visioning the North for the 21st century, and as one of the organizers of Crossroads: A Cross-Cultural Women’s Sharing Circle. She has fifteen years of customer service experience and managed a local business prior to joining the Dechinta team. She currently resides in Yellowknife with her husband and their two daughters.

Kyla has lived most of her life in Yellowknife. Her father’s family is from Fort Good Hope, and Kyla lived there as an infant and returned often as a child. Her mother was born and raised in southwestern Ontario. Kyla chose to attend The University of Western Ontario to be closer to that side of her family. She credits this time spent living away from the North for her appreciation of the importance of being surrounded by family, Dene culture, and the beautiful land she calls home.

Kyla was one of the inaugural Jane Glassco Arctic Fellows, examining the integration of culture and Indigenous knowledge in the school system. She also sits on the Board of The United Way NWT.

Peter Mansbridge

Peter Mansbridge, O.C.
Chief Correspondent, CBC News (Retired) and Former Anchor, The National


Peter Mansbridge is the chief correspondent of CBC News. He anchors CBC's flagship nightly news program, The National, and all CBC News specials. He is also host of CBC News Network's Mansbridge: One on One.

Mansbridge began his career in 1968 in Churchill, Man., where he helped develop CBC Radio's news service to Northern Canada. In 1971, he moved to Winnipeg as a reporter for CBC Radio, and in 1972, joined CBC Television. He became The National's reporter in Saskatchewan in 1975, and, in 1976, was named one of the program's parliamentary correspondents in Ottawa. He became chief correspondent and anchor of The National in 1988.

In more than 40 years with CBC News, Mansbridge has provided comprehensive coverage of the most significant stories in Canada and around the world. In the past few years, Mansbridge has been the only Canadian journalist to interview two of the major new international leaders-U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009, and in 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron.

During a decorated career, Mansbridge has received 12 Gemini Awards for excellence in broadcast journalism. He has also received eight honorary degrees from universities across the country and he has also been recognized by leading universities in the United States and the United Kingdom. In 2008 Mansbridge was made an officer of the Order of Canada by Gov. Gen., Michaëlle Jean. In 2009, he was named Chancellor of Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.

Peter Mansbridge was born in London, England in 1948 and now resides in Stratford, Ont.

Tom Paddon

Tom Paddon
Chairman, Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation


Born in Labrador, Canada, Tom has more than 20 years of experience building and operating projects in the north. He is currently the President and CEO of Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation and is focused on the Mary River iron ore project in northern Nunavut. This multi-billion dollar project will include the construction and operation of the world’s most northerly railway, a new deep water port located 400 kilometres above the Arctic Circle, development of the world’s largest ice-breaking bulk carriers, as well as a fly-in/fly-out camp and the mine that it will support.

Prior to joining Baffinland in 2011, Tom was the General Manager of Vale Newfoundland and Labrador, operator of the Voisey’s Bay project in northern Labrador. Over the course of 15 years, Tom went from establishing local relationships with the Labrador Innu and Inuit that were to become critical to the company’s success in the region, to negotiating separate Impacts and Benefits Agreements with each group. Further, he became responsible for implementing those IBAs and turning the commitments in them into reality. Tom later became General Manager with responsibility for overseeing all operational and production aspects of the business.

The Voisey’s Bay project is now recognized across the country as having raised the bar on employment, business and corporate responsibility for resource developments occurring on aboriginal lands. Tom is quick to point out that the key to success was a strong committed team and a full understanding of the need to collaborate on shared goals with local stakeholders. Baffinland Iron Mines is taking the same approach in Nunavut.

Jobie Tukkiapik

Jobie Tukkiapik
Former President, Makivik Corporation


Mr. Tukkiapik is from Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, and in 1984 was one of his community’s first three high-school graduates. The same year, he obtained a private airplane pilot licence and assisted in the clean-up of 10,000 caribou that had drowned and washed up on the banks of the Koksoak River after hydroelectric spillways from the Caniapiscau Reservoir were opened to alleviate excess water build-up. After completing a commercial aircraft pilot licence in 1987, Mr. Tukkiapik entered into the employ of Air Inuit Ltd. as a professional pilot.

During the late 1980s, Mr. Tukkiapik participated in a role model poster campaign organized by the Northern Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program. This enriching experience solidified Mr. Tukkiapik’s belief in the power of education and vocational training to challenge Nunavik youth and open up new opportunities for them.

In 1990, Mr. Tukkiapik continued his formal education at John Abbott College in Montreal, graduating from the Commerce program after two years. He was then hired in 1993 by the Kativik Regional Government in Kuujjuaq, first in the organization’s Finance Department and then as Director of the Employment, Training, Income Support and Childcare Department. In 2006, Mr. Tukkiapik was appointed Director General of the Kativik Regional Government with responsibility for more than 400 employees delivering a wide range of public services in the 14 remote communities of Nunavik. Mr. Tukkiapik held this position until he was elected President of the Makivik Corporation in January 2012.

He also serves on the board of directors of Air Inuit Ltd. since 2005. Since his election as President of the Makivik Corporation, Mr. Tukkiapik has taken on additional directorships for several other Makivik subsidiary companies or companies in which Makivik is a shareholder. These include Bradley Air Services Limited (known as First Air), Nunavik Creations Inc., Halutik Enterprises Inc., Nunavik Geomatics Inc. and Nunacell Inc. These companies play important roles in the transportation, communication, fuel provisioning and tourism sectors in Nunavik and throughout Canada’s Arctic.

Mr. Tukkiapik is a respected member of the community of Kuujjuaq, an accomplished hunter and fisherman, and an ice hockey enthusiast. While his mother tongue is Inuktitut, he is also fluent in English and speaks some French. Finally, family is very important to Mr. Tukkiapik and he is keenly aware of the importance of sharing the traditional values learnt from his parents and grandparents.

Geraldine Van Bibber

Geraldine Van Bibber
Senior Community Advisor, Office of the Premier, Yukon
Chancellor of Yukon College
Former Commissioner of Yukon


Geraldine Van Bibber (née Kelly), public servant, businesswoman and Commissioner of Yukon. Ms. Van Bibber was born and raised in Dawson, YT, and is of Gwich'in and Irish descent. She worked in the Yukon Department of Finance (1976-90) and was administrator for the territory (2001-05).

Since 1986, when she became a business partner of a family tourism company, Ms. Van Bibber has played a pivotal role in the development of the Yukon travel industry. She was instrumental to the formation of the Yukon First Nation Tourism Association (1992) and has been a member of a number of territorial and national tourism- and small business-related boards including the Canadian Tourism Commission, the Yukon Tourism Education Council and the government of Yukon's Business Development Fund Board. She has been a guest speaker at northern tourism symposiums in Canada, the US, Sweden and Finland.

Other boards and initiatives she has been active in include the Yukon Human Rights Commission, the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues and the Gathering of Traditions Potlatch Society.

Ms. Van Bibber has acted as an ambassador for Yukon and First Nations people, and was the first native-born Yukoner to welcome Prince Charles on his visit to the region in April 2001.

In December 2005, she became Commissioner of Yukon, a position similar to that of a Lieutenant-Governor. Her term ended in 2010, and she was succeeded by Douglas Phillips later that year, in December.

Ms. Van Bibber was named Chancellor of Yukon College in late 2012 and joined the Yukon Party Cabinet and Caucus team as Senior Community Advisor in January 2015.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, O.C.
Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Inuit activist


A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Sheila Watt-Cloutier is in the business of changing public opinion into public policy. Experienced in working with global decision makers for over a decade, Watt-Cloutier offers a new model for 21st Century leadership. She treats the issues of our day -- the environment, the economy, foreign policy, global health, and sustainability -- not as separate concerns, but as a deeply interconnected whole. Every decision, whether environmental, political or economic, has a profound effect on those far from the corridors of power; to understand this connection is vital to building a sustainable world. This is Watt-Cloutier's message. At a time when people are seeking solutions, direction, and a sense of hope, this global leader provides a big picture of where we are and where we are headed.

In 2007, Sheila Watt-Cloutier was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy work in showing the impact of global climate change on human rights -- especially in the Arctic, where it is felt more immediately, and more dramatically, than anywhere else in the world. (The Arctic is the planet's health barometer; what happens in the world happens there first.) By making a human connection -- by telling the human stories -- she helped a generation see the issue in a newly urgent way. Her advocacy work -- not just environmental but all-encompassing -- is grounded in human rights, in our shared humanity.

Based in Nunavut, Watt-Cloutier is an Officer of the Order of Canada. She is also the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Aboriginal Achievement Award, the UN Champion of the Earth Award, and the prestigious Norwegian Sophie Prize. From 1995 - 2002, she was elected the Canadian President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). At the ICC, she was a hugely influential voice in the successful negotiations of the Stockholm Convention, the landmark treaty banning Persistent Organic Pollutants. (POPs end up in the Arctic and have been an alarming health issue for Inuit). She was later elected in 2002 to become the International Chair of the ICC, representing the 155,000 Inuit from Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Russia; she held this post until 2006. Under her leadership, she and 62 fellow Inuit from Canada and Alaska launched the world's first international legal action on climate change, with a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She is the main signatory to the petition. Displaying calm, clear and reflective leadership on various big issues, Watt-Cloutier is a much requested speaker worldwide.