Cynthia Hill, who spent three decades as an educator and leader in Inuvik, is reported to have died at the age of 87 in Vancouver.
An obituary published in both the Vancouver Sun and Globe and Mail reports Hill passed away on December 13 at Vancouver’s Cottage Hospice.
Hill established Inuvik’s first preschool, helped to found the town’s library, and served as both a town councillor and mayor before retiring south to Calgary in 1991.
Remembered for her drive and leadership, Hill leaves behind two children, five grandchildren, and a brother, among many other relatives and friends.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Cynthia Creelman married Dick Hill in 1957 before the pair relocated first to Toronto, then the Northwest Territories.
While Dick ran a research consulting firm, Cynthia became a teacher and subsequently superintendent.
Alongside her involvement in Inuvik politics, she acquired roles with organizations such as the federal Liberal Party, Arctic Institute of North America, NWT Association of Communities, and Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women.
In January 1992, while chair of the Arctic Institute, Hill delivered a speech in which she described moving to Inuvik in 1963.
“The oil and gas boom in the Inuvik region was barely in its infancy, and many Inuvialuit, Gwich’in, and other Dene families still lived off the land. There was no Dempster Highway from the south, Tuktoyaktuk was a small, traditional settlement, and TV satellite dishes and VCRs were unknown,” she declared.
“Our member of Parliament was non-native, our legislative assembly was non-existent, and we were ruled by a committee of appointed commissioners, all men, based in Ottawa. Responsible government was a concept, not a reality.”
Hill went on to tell her audience: “The North is no longer to be considered just a ‘bread basket’ for the south, and southern Canadians can no longer assume northern compliance with southern desires. Simply put, all northerners want inclusion in all national decisions that affect them.”
In her obituary, her daughters remembered her as “an intrepid woman who recognized the potential in people and organizations and worked to realize their potential. Her life had purpose, energy, and passion. Her memory is a blessing.”
At her request, a ‘Summer Fete’ is to be organized in lieu of a funeral. Donations in Cynthia Hill’s memory may be made to The Bloom Group, which helps to fund social services in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.