Nunavut residents recognized as mental health champions
Among 150 Canadians who changed the course of mental health: Kieran Drachenberg, Dr. Madeline Cole and Kirt Ejesiak of Iqaluit
A 17-year-old Nunavut teenager is among a group of 150 from across Canada, honoured Oct. 19, as Canadians who are changing the course of mental health.
Along with Kieran Drachenberg, Dr. Madeline Cole and Kirt Egesiak of Iqaluit were also honoured at a Toronto gala celebrating the 150 leading Canadians for mental health, chosen from more than 3,500 nominations.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, launched “Difference Makers: 150 Leading Canadians for Mental Health” in January 2017, with Canadians invited to nominate “someone who has made a difference through research, philanthropy, advocacy, social change or inspiration.”
Drachenberg, 17, who has been a visible supporter of improving transgender rights in Nunavut, appeared in the Nunavut legislature last March when MLAs passed Bill 31 updating Nunavut’s Human Rights Act, by adding the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the words “sexual orientation.”
This bill, now law, provided specific protections for transgender Nunavummiut.
An accomplished writer despite his young age, Drachenberg also wrote a blog entry for the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation about his own experiences identifying as transgendered in Nunavut.
“To pass this bill to include gender identity in the Nunavut Human Rights Act is a long overdue step forward in improving and catching up to the other provinces and territories of Canada,” Drachenberg said.
“It shows that the people in our government are willing to do what is best for its people, regardless of how they identify gender-wise. It makes me feel safer, more protected and more like a proper citizen of Nunavut. It also makes me prouder to be one.”
Dr. Madeline Cole, 47, a family doctor at the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit, also serves as director of medical education for the region.
Among her achievements: the building of a successful hospital-based ethics committee at the QGH.
“This comes down to weighing rights and wrongs, evaluating differing needs and understandings, acknowledging the many shades of grey and doing our best to come up with the just, fair and moral approach to the question at hand,” she wrote in a paper published online, called, “Doing the right thing! A model for building a successful hospital-based ethics committee in Nunavut.”
Kirt Ejesiak, 48, also Cole’s partner, graduated from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government with a master’s degree in public administration. Ejesiak, a Fulbright Scholar, was the first Inuk from Nunavut to gain a Harvard degree.
Among other positions, Egesiak has served as an executive member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council and on Iqaluit’s city council.
“It’s very apparent that we don’t have enough mental health workers,” he said during his unsuccessful bid to become Iqaluit West MLA in the 2011 territorial election.