Political and business leaders from the Northwest Territories were taken out of their comfort zones to exchange views and experiences with peers from across Canada during the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference (GGCLC) June 1-15.
The second annual conference began in Halifax with three days of Canadian and international speakers addressing the 230 participants on topics of leadership and sustainable communities – themes that permeated the 15-day conference. For the following nine days, attendees were shipped off in “study groups” to areas of Canada they were unfamiliar with to tour industry and organizations “useful as learning sites.”
Mary Ann Ross, vice president of the Gwich’in Tribal Council and one of five NWT representatives attending the conference, toured Nova Scotia, a province she told The Journal she hopes to visit again. It was her first time in the Maritimes.
“I wanted to see how their ideas took root and thrived, to learn about how they dealt with similar issues we are dealing with in the NWT, build new skills, and to learn leadership methods to be a better leader in my community, region and territory,” Ross said.
Study groups were sent to each province and territory. Participants from the NWT toured Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Ontario’s southwest and Greater Toronto Area.
Ross said one of her goals in attending was to expose herself to the perspectives of provincial, city and community government structures.
“I wanted to take myself out of what I know and understand and to familiarize myself with another area of Canada,” Ross said.
Ross said a highlight for her was meeting and working with the study group that toured Nova Scotia, all of whom she intends to keep in touch with.
Other NWT participants were Heather Bourassa of Arctic Circle Enterprises LLC of Fort Good Hope, Bradley Brake of the Fort Smith Correctional Complex, David Brock of Elections NWT in Yellowknife and Scott Robertson, GNWT’s chief nursing officer in Yellowknife.
The conference speakers, which included Governor General David Johnston, were also interesting, although she said she struggled with some of the ideals and leadership styles presented.
“Some leaders were stronger, determined and found ways to give back by mentoring, encouragement and keeping a good balance between home and work,” Ross said.
Not every part of the conference was uplifting. Ross returned from the GGCLC resolving to use less paper after seeing the effects a pulp and paper mill has had on Pictou Landing First Nation (PLFN) over the last four decades. The Abercrombie Pulp and Paper Mill has allowed approximately 1 trillion litres of mill wastewater to flow into Boat Harbour since 1967, which has impacted PLFN’s water quality, according to an October 2011 story from the Halifax Media Co-op.
“The environmental mess in their area broke my heart,” Ross said. “I never want to see this in my territory or in anyone’s backyard. Therefore, I resolve to use less paper.”
After nine days on tour learning and discussing local issues, conference participants were shuttled to Ottawa-Gatineau for three days to reflect on their experiences and prepare a report on issues and concerns of the communities they visited.
The purpose was not to resolve problems, but to learn about leadership and creating sustainable communities, Ross noted.
“I wanted to find out how these bodies, including industry, non-governmental organizations sectors and Aboriginal government leaders, think and work to sustain themselves. Everything is connected from top provincial/territorial governments to the small cottage-run business,” she said.