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NWT’s Gail Cyr formally inducted into Order of Canada


Almost a year after being admitted to the Order of Canada, Gail Cyr’s investiture ceremony took place at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall on Thursday.

Yellowknife resident Cyr was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada by Governor General Mary Simon in late December 2021, but the ceremony was postponed by the pandemic to a later date.

That date arrived on Thursday.

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“Rideau Hall is just a gorgeous place,” said Cyr after the ceremony, which she said had recognized 13 officers and 33 members of the Order of Canada.

Gail Cyr inside Rideau Hall ahead of her ceremony
Gail Cyr inside Rideau Hall ahead of her ceremony. Jesse Wheeler/Cabin Radio
Gail Cyr's snowflake-styled insignia denoting her status as a Member of the Order of Canada
Cyr’s snowflake-styled insignia denoting her status as a Member of the Order of Canada. Photo: Supplied

“Members of the bar, paediatric oncologists, architects, broadcasters, people looking after the environment,” she said, recalling the people she met who were being inducted on the same day.

“Some people were asking, ‘Do I belong here?’ And, well, of course you do. Some people feel a bit of awkwardness in there but I felt good,” Cyr told Cabin Radio, where her son, Jesse Wheeler, hosts a weekday morning show.

Cyr is recognized, the governor general’s office said in a news release last year, “for her distinguished career in municipal politics and for her advocacy on behalf of missing and murdered women and victims of abuse.”

More: Yellowknife’s Gail Cyr becomes Member of the Order of Canada

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Since moving to Yellowknife from Manitoba in the 1970s, Cyr has served as a tireless advocate for Indigenous people, particularly those left vulnerable or without a voice.

She created the Native Court Workers Association and became its executive director, leaving what was then the Indian Brotherhood of the NWT – now the Dene Nation – to form and lead an organization that helped Indigenous people navigate the territory’s justice system.

Cyr subsequently spent a decade on Yellowknife’s city council. She used that experience to help NWT communities run their local elections in the 1990s and 2000s, then in 2007 became special advisor to the minister responsible for the status of women.

“It’s really nice to be recognized,” she said on Thursday, “and for people on the outside looking in to say: ‘There is a deserving member here that needs to be inducted.'”

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Cyr spoke briefly with Simon – the two had met once previously, many years earlier. Simon spent part of a speech at Rideau Hall congratulating Cyr and others in her mother tongue, Inuktitut.

“Throughout your lives and careers, you have made your communities better. You have improved our quality of life. You have changed the way we live, work and think,” Simon told Thursday’s inductees according to a readout from her office.

“What makes this moment particularly special is that you were nominated by someone who saw the hard work you put in. They knew, as we all do, that you are worthy of recognition.

“And now, we will forever know your stories.”