Governor General of Canada

Governor General of Canada

August 04, 2011 10:02 ET

Governor General Announces the Awarding of the Northern Medal to Zacharias Kunuk and Mary May Simon

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 4, 2011) - His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, announced today that Zacharias Kunuk and Mary May Simon are the newest recipients of the Governor General's Northern Medal. They will receive the award at a ceremony to be held at a later date.

Created in 2005, the Governor General's Northern Medal is awarded to citizens whose actions and achievements have contributed to the evolution and constant reaffirmation of the Canadian North as part of our national identity. The Northern Medal has so far been awarded to Sheila Watt-Cloutier, O.C.; Nellie Cournoyea, O.C.; Bertha Allen, C.M.; and Georges Henry Erasmus, O.C.

A fact sheet on the Governor General's Northern Medal is attached. The following are the citations for Mr. Kunuk and Mrs. Simon.

Zacharias Kunuk, O.C.
Igloolik, Nunavut

Inuk film producer and director Zacharias Kunuk was born in Kapuivik, on Baffin Island, Nunavut. Living a traditional childhood of schooling in Igloolik and summers spent traveling and hunting with his family, Mr. Kunuk developed a passion for photography, which led him to filmmaking. In 1990, he co-founded Igloolik Isuma Productions, Canada's first independent Inuit production company, which prides itself in preserving and enhancing Inuit language and culture. His first feature film, Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner), enjoyed international acclaim. He completed The Fast Runner Trilogy with two other films (The Journals of Knud Rasmussen and Before Tomorrow), which, along with numerous documentaries on Inuit culture and climate change, have reached many audiences in Canada and abroad via new networking technologies. Mr. Kunuk is devoted to his community, having served as hamlet councillor in Igloolik and on various boards of directors throughout the territory. He is currently on the board of the Nunavut Development Corporation, which is responsible for providing residents with sustainable employment and income opportunities in arts and crafts. A unique storyteller, Mr. Kunuk has shared his passion and love for the cultural, traditional and spiritual values of the North, allowing it to be embraced worldwide.

Mary J. May Simon, O.C., O.Q.
Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec and Ottawa, Ontario

Born in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec, on Nunavik's Ungava Coast, Mary Simon is devoted to the well-being of the Inuit in Canada and abroad. A champion of social justice, particularly for children and youth, Ms. Simon has made it her life's work to increase recognition of Aboriginal rights and northern affairs. Through her diplomacy and leadership, Ms. Simon has gained the respect of many heads of governments and international organizations. She is a valued advisor on important northern issues such as sovereignty, the environment, economic development and social policy. In addition to her many accomplishments, including the negotiation of the recognition of Aboriginal rights in the Constitution Act, 1982, Ms. Simon became the first Inuk to hold an ambassadorial position. She is also known as the principal architect of Canada's northern policy.

A true visionary and passionate advocate for Inuit culture, Ms. Simon is a continuous source of inspiration and is committed to the preservation of Canada's northern identity.

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In 2005, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, then-governor general of Canada, created the Governor General's Northern Medal, a medallion to be awarded annually to citizens whose actions and achievements have contributed to the evolution and constant reaffirmation of the Canadian North as part of our national identity.


Canadian citizens who have made outstanding contributions to Canada's northern communities in one or more fields; whose achievements have benefited the North; who have strengthened Canada's recognition of this region and its peoples; or who have promoted a greater awareness and understanding of the North are eligible. An advisory committee consisting of seven representatives of Aboriginal and northern communities and/or individuals who have a special expertise or knowledge of northern affairs will advise the governor general on the award and recommend recipients.

Description of the medallion

The obverse depicts a snowy owl, which represents a watchful guardian spirit whose flight symbolizes many possibilities arising from movement in different directions. The whole North and the splendours of its unique natural phenomena are encompassed by the aurora borealis. A small Canadian Arctic diamond refers to the North Star. The aurora radiates around the diamond, illustrating the diverse possibilities and discoveries found in the region, and how they enrich us all in return. The crystal base recalls an iceberg, an icon of the power and beauty of the northern land and seascape.

On the reverse, the words "Governor General's Northern Medal / La Médaille du Gouverneur général pour la Nordicité" appear with the name of the recipient.

The medallion measures 90 mm in diameter and was designed by Cathy Bursey-Sabourin, Fraser Herald, at the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

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