Mary Simon joins “women’s hall of fame”

ITK president earns prestigious honour


Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, is now a member of the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame, taking her place alongside famous women from all walks of life.

Past honorees include Nobel laureates, presidents, prime ministers, journalists, and athletes — internationally known women like singer Ella Fitzgerald, actress Audrey Hepburn, Britain’s former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and television host Barbara Walters.

“I am honoured and touched to be receiving this award and to be included in such an incredible group of women,” Simon said in a statement. “I will be accepting this honour on behalf of all Inuit women.”

Ana Palacio, Spain’s first female former foreign affairs minister, Beverley McLachlin, chief justice of Canada, and Canadian astronaut Julie Payette were also welcomed into the Hall of Fame at a special evening celebration held Oct. 15 at the Palais des Congres in Montreal.

Students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut and Susan Aglukark performed before Simon spoke to the gathering.

In her speech, Simon emphasized the importance of women in Inuit culture, mentioning how her grandmother first taught her the benefits of hard work.

“She would take me blueberry picking, which is a sacred tradition for women in our culture. But the berries fed our family. And for that reason, she would not allow me to sneak even a single berry from my bucket,” Simon said.

“I still think of her when I head into the blueberry bush near my home in Kuujjuaq. I know she watches down on me as I defy her orders and fill my mouth with berries. And I hope she smiles, as she is smiling down on me today.”

An award of a diamond-studded watch accompanying the honour will go to the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation, now headed by Aglukark, she said.

“Inuit women are the keepers of our culture. They are our leaders and our caregivers and I am proud to follow in their footsteps. I accept this award on behalf of our elders… and also on behalf of our youth,” Simon said.

Aglugark said the watch would be the showpiece and premiere item at the foundation’s next fundraising auction.

“It shows how Mary continues to lead by example, putting the needs of Inuit ahead of her own,” Aglukark said.

Each year, the IWF recognizes the accomplishments of women leaders.

Canadian inductees include astronaut Roberta Bondar and former prime minister Kim Campbell.

Simon is the first Inuk to be inducted into the IWF Hall of Fame — “but I don’t want to be the last,” she said Oct. 15.

Founded in 1982 in the United States, the IWF brings together leaders across 23 countries and five continents.

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