Commissioner Angélique Bernard, centre, shakes hands with a visitor during a speaking engagement in Whitehorse in 2019. The Commissioner’s office launched several prizes and programs in 2020 geared toward enhancing civic pride. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Commissioner Angélique Bernard, centre, shakes hands with a visitor during a speaking engagement in Whitehorse in 2019. The Commissioner’s office launched several prizes and programs in 2020 geared toward enhancing civic pride. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Commissioner’s office celebrated Yukoners in 2020

Comissioner Angélique Bernard introduced several prizes and projects this year

Angélique Bernard, Commissioner of Yukon, reflects that her office focused on celebrating the service of Yukoners in 2020.

“I’m always amazed, and really touched, by the work that people have done to make the Yukon what it is,” Bernard said.

The Commissioner’s office launched several prizes and programs in 2020 geared toward enhancing civic pride.

One highlight for Bernard was the installment of the wall of translations at her Taylor House office. “Commissioner of Yukon” is now inscribed in English, Hän, Southern Tutchone, Kaska, Northern Tutchone, Gwich’in, Tlingit and French on the wall leading to the second floor.

The First Nations translations of “Commissioner of Yukon” don’t exist traditionally, and were created for the project. The Commissioner is still seeking language keepers to translate Upper Tanana and Tagish.

“We left it up to each First Nation to translate and it was interesting to see the final product,” Bernard said.

“I love languages, and I think language and culture are at the heart of who we are, so it was important to me as the Commissioner of Yukon representing everyone to have that sign of respect to First Nations.”

The Commissioner’s office launched the Borealis Prize, Yukon Service Pin and Story Laureate of Yukon this year.

The first Borealis Prize for literary contribution was awarded to Patti Flather and Leonard Linklater, founders of the Gwaandak Theatre, in September.

The prize was inspired by Bernard’s visit to a publishing festival in Dawson City.

“We started talking about how to best highlight the wonderful writers and contributors we have in the Yukon, so we came out with the Borealis Prize,” Bernard said.

The Yukon Service Pin launched at the end of October and was gifted to more than 500 Yukoners.

The pin recognizes military personnel and first responders who were born in or serve the Yukon. Bernard said they have been distributed among EMS responders, firefighters, search and rescue, RCMP and Canadian rangers.

Michael Gates was tagged as the Yukon’s first Story Laureate in mid-October. He will serve a two-year term as an ambassador for the territory’s literary history in January. His first commitment will be to read at the Commissioner’s virtual New Year’s Levy on Jan. 1.

Bernard said the role of the Story Laureate will be flexible in this first term.

“It’s both highlighting the person in the position and also highlighting the hidden stories in Yukon; describing the people, the mood, the landscape, the heritage,” Bernard said.

“We’re leaving it pretty open for the person to come to us with ideas.”

The pandemic challenged the Commissioner’s office to launch a series of programming under the confines of public health measures.

“It was a year of adaptability, we needed to be innovative and creative in the way that we had our events,” Bernard said.

In previous years, the Order of Yukon has been presented at the Commissioner’s New Year’s Levy, in front of an audience of more than 200 people. This year, each recipient was awarded the Order at their home with an intimate audience of up to 10 family members. Video footage of each ceremony has been compiled for a virtual ceremony on New Year’s Day.

“I think people liked having that intimate feeling, with more family members present,” Bernard said.

Bernard advised that the Commissioner’s office is planning new projects for 2021, and invites Yukoners to stay up to date on the office’s Facebook page.

“I’m wishing everyone a safe and healthy new year,” she told the News.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at gabrielle.plonka@yukon-news.com

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