Governor General Michaelle Jean was overwhelmed by the Yukon.
“It almost makes me dizzy,” she said, during her speech at the premier’s dinner Sunday night at the Yukon Convention Centre.
“Not only the air, but the immensity of this country.”
Jean, who completes her official tour of Canada in the Yukon, is here to talk with locals.
“Over the next few days, I will go and meet the people of this territory,” she said.
“We will be listening to artists, young people, women and men who are involved in their communities.
“We want to see the passion in the people of this territory.”
Jean congratulated Premier Dennis Fentie on his government’s commitment to protect the “still almost virginal environment of the Yukon and all its ecosystems.”
“I want to hear about the climate change strategy you are trying to implement,” she added.
Before becoming Governor General, Jean spent many years working with women and children in crisis.
And she congratulated Fentie’s governments on its “efforts to fight alcoholism and drug abuse among young people.”
“I know one of the greatest challenges facing young people in the Yukon is finding the right balance between the traditional ways of life here in the North and the demands of the modern world,” she said.
The banquet hall was filled with numerous local artists and dignitaries, including MP Larry Bagnell, Audrey McLaughlin, mayor Bev Buckway. Local singer/songwriter Kate Weekes entertained the crowd after dinner.
Jean congratulated Fentie on his strong commitment to arts and culture.
Over the next few days, Jean will be meeting with First Nations; she will visit Kluane National Park and will stay in Dawson City for a day, participating in a Tr’ondek Hwech’in traditional feast.
“From Mount Logan — which is the highest mountain in Canada and the second tallest summit in North America — to the majesty of the Yukon River — the great river as it is called in Gwich’in — this territory seems to be made for that race of people who, as the poet Robert Service wrote, “can’t sit still” and who “don’t know how to rest.”
The Yukon is more than a legend, said Jean.
“It is a place where, if my impressions are correct thus far, solidarity is a way of life.
“That is how people talk about you,” she said.
Jean had heard how people come to the Yukon for a visit and end up staying for a lifetime.
“Who knows, this might happen to us,” she said.
Jean’s speech was warm and congratulatory, but she also had a warning for the inhabitants of “this captivating land.”
“Let me tell you how I look at landscapes,” she said.
“I grew up on a Caribbean island where tropical forests were decimated and the mountains were left bare and exposed.
“I understand very well that your nature here in the North is a precious gift.”