The phone rang in Rebecca Kudloo’s home in Baker Lake on Thursday. When she answered it, she found herself speaking to Canada’s Governor General, Mary Simon.
“I just want to thank you for all your work in advocating for mental health in your community, as well as in other parts of the Arctic, and for the rights of Inuit women,” Simon told her, first in Inuktitut, then in English.
Simon set up the surprise call because of the 35 years Kudloo has spent running the Mianiqsijit counselling service in Baker Lake, and because of her work with Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, a national non-profit aiming to bring awareness to the needs of Inuit women.
As an advocate and president of Pauktuutit, Kudloo said she has travelled widely to other Arctic areas — Alaska, Greenland, Finland and more — and spoken at the United Nations about Indigenous issues.
“That’s how you get people working together across the globe, especially Aboriginal people,” she said.
She said one of her greatest achievements with Pauktuutit was finally securing funding for five shelters, after 35 years of asking.
“It’s not always easy … but nothing worthwhile is easy,” she said of the work Pauktuutit does.
As for Mianiqsijit, Kudloo said the service works in all areas of family violence, including with offenders.
“This proves that this kind of counselling works in small communities, and it’s been a model for other communities, too,” she said.
“We look at things holistically — we can’t just [work in] one area, we have to look at the whole family.”
Simon said she sees the work Kudloo has been doing as a “very critical element of our wellbeing.”
The idea for the call sprang out of a holiday segment from CBC Ottawa, which approached Simon to call up another Indigenous advocate to thank them for the work they’ve done.
Simon’s hope was to inspire Canadians to ajuinnata — an Inuktitut term meaning a vow to never give up.
She and Kudloo both offered their thanks to the volunteers and staff at Mianiqsijit and Pautuuktit as well.
For Kudloo, the call was both proof that her work was being recognized, and an opportunity to talk about what her organizations need.
“Sometimes, you feel so alone — but you know it’s for a good cause,” she said.
“We have to take ownership of our own healing, but we also need help from the federal government, for instance, for programs that are working well to be funded properly and [have] multi-year funding so we’re not always looking for funding every year.”