Nora Sanders’ many strengths


My first impulse on learning of Nora Sanders’ resignation as Deputy Minister of Justice was to say something about the conditions under which she left.

I know, however, from working with her for nearly four years, that this is not her way, and I will try to focus on the positive, as she always taught her co-workers to do.

Others know better than I, the contribution she made to the community in such areas as literacy, the arts and the homeless. What I do know about her contributions in these areas, however, indicates that her contribution was made in the same way as her contribution to the Government of Nunavut in general and the Department of Justice in particular.

That is to say, it was by conveying in all her words and deeds a strong faith and belief in the goodness of people and the fundamental worth and value of the organization in question.

A few examples will illustrate:

Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit
I do not recall Nora ever having given a direction to any director in the department that we must take a specific action in recognition of our obligation to respect Inuit traditional knowledge.

Nevertheless, there was not a person in the department who did not know exactly how strongly she supported the need to recognize and promote it in all our work.

No one was told to go to language training classes. We simply looked around and there she was. Nora, who spoke the language better than any of us, was there making mistakes, being embarrassed, being laughed at, and learning just like the rest of us.

How could any of us in the department ever say we were too busy, proud or important to struggle with the language when our deputy minister thought it important enough for her to find the time to do so?

The same thing can be said for the development and implementation of the Inuit Employment Plan and the famous IQ days. No one was told they had to attend, but all knew perfectly well by her example and participation just how important it was to her and wanted to please her.

Similarly with the feed the homeless program. Although not an official departmental program, when employees showed up at the Dome they usually found Nora working along side them to dish out food or clean up after vandals nearly destroyed the place.

Achieving a proper balance
Admittedly, I may not be a good example of how well Nora succeeded in teaching us all by example the importance of achieving a healthy balance between our work and personal lives.

But once again, the example was there and all but the most stubborn saw her example and followed it for a healthier life and, in the long run, an ability to continue working and contributing to the GN for a longer period of time than those who would otherwise burn out earlier.

Government etiquette
For lack of a better word for it I lump all the small things that go into the formation of a proper co-operative attitude to others in government under this heading.

Although some of us were at times frustrated with what we saw as uncooperative or misguided individuals, we were forced to deal with from time to time, and sorely tempted to let these feelings show through in our correspondence or dealings with them, we soon observed by Nora’s reaction to such ungenerous attitudes that this was not her way.

On reflection, we usually saw the wisdom of her more forgiving approach and learned that working cooperatively achieved more in the long run and certainly made life much more pleasant.

I am sad to think that these – and many other – strengths and qualities as a leader of people may not be fully recognized and appreciated by those who have not had an opportunity to work with Nora over the last four years.

Her staff will, however, always appreciate the strength, wisdom, friendship, and leadership she provided to us in the early days of the Nunavut Department of Justice.

Doug Wallace
Former Director, Legal and Constitutional Law
Nunavut Department of Justice

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