NNSL Photo/Graphic


Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Governor General pays brief visit to Fort Smith

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 12, 2011

Judging by his own words, Governor General David Johnston was impressed with Fort Smith during a stop in the community on Dec. 9 as part of a whirlwind tour of the NWT.

During impromptu comments at an informal reception at the Rec Centre, Johnston noted Mayor Janie Hobart had told him the Town of Fort Smith had just adopted a new branding - 'Unexpected, Unforgettable.'

"It's unexpected, unforgettable, and unbelievable," he said to applause from residents gathered to meet him and have their pictures taken with Queen Elizabeth's representative in Canada.

Johnston travelled to the community with his wife, Sharon Johnston, and their entourage, and their first stop was at Aurora College.

President Sarah Wright Cardinal said the college was proud the Governor General chose to visit, especially given his background as a university chancellor.

"It means a lot to us at Aurora College, as we are growing our post-secondary programs, to have this opportunity to have a dialogue with a Governor General who has a strong education advocacy background," said Wright Cardinal.

At the college, the Governor General and his wife joined a roundtable discussion on the impact of the territorial government's Aboriginal Student Achievement Initiative, which aims to bridge the gap between aboriginal and other students in the K-12 school system.

The roundtable was closed to the media, but Wright Cardinal said Johnston and his wife were very involved in the discussion, which included some high school and elementary students.

"It was a very engaging dialogue on education," she said.

It was then off to Paul William Kaeser High School, where Johnston was greeted by a choir, the JBT Jiggers from Joseph Burr Tyrrell School and a gym full of students.

In a brief address to the students, Johnston said it was a "delight" for him and his wife to be in Fort Smith, noting the trip to the NWT was his first in almost 30 years.

The Governor General also emphasized to the young people the importance of staying in school.

"Get the most education you possibly can and then you can come back to your community as leaders because you have this great gift which is education," he said.

While at the school, Johnston also presented two Governor General Academic Medals.

One went to 18-year-old Nicole Katherine Labine, who graduated from PWK High School earlier this year and is now working towards a science degree at the University of British Columbia in Kelowna with the hope of going on to study medicine.

The medal was accepted on her behalf by her parents, Michel and Colette Labine, who explained their daughter was very happy to receive the honour, but unable to attend the ceremony because she was writing a final exam at university.

"She said she would Photoshop herself into the picture when she got home," her father said with a laugh.

The other medal went to Malcolm Gorrill of Inuvik as the Aurora College student with the highest average in a diploma program. He graduated earlier this year from the business administration program at the college campus in Inuvik.

While many people across Canada have won the academic medals over the years, only a few have actually had it presented by the Governor General in person.

"It's pretty special. I wasn't expecting that," said Gorrill, who works as an administration assistant at Aurora College.

The Governor General's visit to Fort Smith concluded with a gathering with community elders at Northern Life Museum and a tour of the museum's displays.

Before coming to Fort Smith, the Governor General was in Yellowknife, and he concluded his tour of the NWT in Hay River.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.