‘I loved the challenges’: Minnie Grey leaving Nunavik health board
As she prepares for retirement, executive director calls COVID-19 pandemic greatest challenge, lesson of career
For the first time in a long time, Minnie Grey is looking forward to having her summer all to herself.
Grey, executive director of Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, says she’s also looking forward to spending time with family in Kangirsuk as she enters a long-awaited retirement this week.
“I’m happy about it, I really want to have some time for myself,” she said in an interview. “At the same time, part of me is sad because I work with great people.”
In 2018, Grey was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for her work with the health board, as well as in recognition for her previous leadership positions. As well, Grey was chief negotiator for the creation of Nunavik regional government.
Grey, 65, will work her final day on Wednesday, a week after getting a send-off during the health board’s 2022 annual general meeting.
Before taking on the executive director position in 2013, she served in elected leadership positions with Makivik Corp. and Arctic Circumpolar Council.
Looking back on the past decade, Grey said she’s proud of how much the Nunavik health board grew and expanded its programs. Specifically, she highlighted improvements in mental health and suicide prevention services, implementation of care informed by Inuit traditions, and modernization of Nunavik’s health centres.
At the same time, she said the past two years spent managing the COVID-19 pandemic in Nunavik presented the greatest challenge of her tenure in leadership.
In that time, Nunavik, like communities all across the country, faced several lockdowns as a way to prevent the spread of the virus.
There were 10 COVID-19 deaths across the region — among the lowest regional case counts in Quebec, according to provincial government data.
Grey said the challenge of learning how to manage COVID-19 was an important teamwork lesson for her and her colleagues as they were forced to adapt their services to the situation everyone was experiencing globally.
“It was not an easy two years being at the helm of the health board during the pandemic,” she said, “but I think we handled it really well, and I really do appreciate having worked with many people.
“It was a tremendously educating couple of years.”
Jennifer Munick-Watkins is set to succeed Grey as interim executive director.
Munick-Watkins previously served as the health board’s director of Inuit values and practices, before being elected as Kativik Regional Government chairperson for two terms.
She left KRG in the fall after choosing to not seek re-election.
Grey said she doesn’t have any big plans for the future other than fishing, berry picking and maybe a little bit of personal travel to a vacation spot near Montreal.
She said she has learned from her retired friends that it’s OK to say no to some offers and opportunities at this stage in life.
Overall, Grey said that she’s thankful for the time she was able to spend with the health board, and she’ll still be in touch over the next few months to mentor Munick and to ensure that the leadership transition is successful.
“I just want to take this opportunity to thank all the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with and being involved with,” said Grey.
“My job was not an easy one, I loved the challenges, but I didn’t do it alone.”