Health Canada

Health Canada

May 15, 2009 10:30 ET

Minister of Health Recognizes Dedication to Health Care in 2009 First Nations and Inuit National Award of Excellence in Nursing

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 15, 2009) - Today, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, congratulates three exceptional nurses who each received the National Award of Excellence in Nursing for First Nations and Inuit communities. The ceremony took place at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, and, as in previous years, is an important part of National Nursing Week.

"Awards of Excellence in Nursing honour the outstanding level of commitment and resourcefulness demonstrated by nurses working in First Nations and Inuit communities," said Minister Aglukkaq. "I am very happy to acknowledge the contribution of these three special nurses, on the occasion of the 7th Annual Award of Excellence in Nursing ceremony. Their consideration and dedication to First Nations and Inuit communities and to advances in the nursing profession are exceptional."

Nurses play a key role in improving the health of Canada's Aboriginal peoples. There are about 258,000 registered nurses in Canada, with approximately 1,200 working in First Nations and Inuit communities. The First Nations and Inuit National Award of Excellence in Nursing was first celebrated in 2003 to recognize how valued nurses are in these communities, particularly in isolated or remote regions. Both peers and community members are invited to send in nominations for the awards, making the recognition of these unique and hard-working individuals truly meaningful. Each winner receives a $2,500 non-cash award for professional development, a certificate of recognition and a striking crystal sculpture.

"These dedicated workers add to the proficiency and commitment of our Government to enhance health-care service in First Nations and Inuit communities," said the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians. "Nurses are a key link to health care in First Nations communities and it is important that their immense contribution is acknowledged today."

This years winners, Judy Wilson of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories; Liza Sam of Nak'azdli (Fort St. James), British Columbia; and Susan Stoneson of Chilliwack, British Columbia are all top-quality nurses with tremendous responsibilities who have chosen to work in First Nations and Inuit communities. They are exceptionally diligent, with tremendous devotion to the health concerns of residents who live in remote or isolated locations. Much is asked of these nursing professionals, and while the work is at times difficult, the rewards are great.

"These dedicated nurses represent the very best of health-care providers working in First Nations and Inuit communities," said Minister Aglukkaq. "Each winner has worked hard to make a difference in the lives of real people."

Refer to attached biographies of this year's awards recipients:

Judy Wilson

Judy is the nurse in-charge at the Rosie Ovayuk Health Centre in Tuktoyaktuk -- a busy, four-nurse health centre in a community of 1,000 people. Judy works in acute care (assessment, diagnosis and treatment) and delivers public health-care programs, including well man, well women, prenatal, and postpartum. She also finds time to mentor new nurses in-charge for their positions in remote health centres. Judy received her Masters of Public Health from the University of Melbourne and has presented at a number of international conferences. Her nursing career has taken her from working with indigenous communities in Australia and New Zealand, to the Inuvialuit and G'wichen First nations in the North West Territories. Judy is a very dedicated nurse and a credit to the nursing profession.

Liza Sam

Liza works as community health nurse at the Nak'azdli Health Centre in Fort Saint James. Since Nak'azdli is her home community, Liza seeks new ways to promote health awareness among people she has known and loved. One such unique activity is her use of 'house parties.' Women meet at various homes to make bread, knit or do beadwork. In this comfortable and safe environment, Liza teaches and discusses a wide range of sensitive health topics with the women, like HIV/AIDS, sexual health and issues surrounding TB. By creating a safe, relaxed environment, Liza is able to reach groups in the community that she might not otherwise be able to reach. Liza emphasizes that her work is very much a team effort, saying emphatically that without the support and ideas from her team, she couldn't do the work she does. In 2006, she represented BC First Nations at an Aboriginal Symposium in Alice Springs, Australia. Liza continues to be a valuable asset to her community and profession.

Susan Stoneson

As a nurse in-charge, Susan travels the entire province of BC visiting communities with temporary nurse-in-charge needs. Alternating months between her home in Chilliwack and often remote and isolated locations, Susan works in emergency trauma care and community health. Destinations may include Port Simpson, a 15-minute flight from Prince Rupert; Hartley Bay, a coastal community with no roads and a unique travel system that uses golf carts and boardwalks; or Telegraph Creek, a northern community close to the Alaskan border. Susan loves to learn and is completing her post-graduate diploma in Advanced Nursing Practitioner through Athabasca University, believing nursing practitioners are the way of the future. Susan is known as an exceptional nurse and a person of great drive and integrity.

Health Canada news releases are available on the Internet at

Egalement disponible en francais

Contact Information

  • Media Inquiries:
    Health Canada
    Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
    Federal Minister of Health
    Josee Bellemare
    Public Enquiries: