The Queen’s representatives to Canada and to Manitoba came to the north last week to find out what made the region tick - and both had rave reviews for what they found.
Governor General Julie Payette and Manitoba Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon came to town for visits during the early stages of Culture Days this past week. It was Payette’s first time visiting northern Manitoba terrestrially - but in a manner of speaking, she had visited the area before through her previous job.
“I had seen it from space before. Whenever I could spend a few minutes while we did a pass over of Canada, I did. What is really amazing about northern Manitoba and northern Ontario was the number of lakes. It’s lakes and forests, lakes and forests, and it’s absolutely stunning from space,” she said during a visit at Hapnot Collegiate Sept. 26.
Both Payette and Filmon visited Hapnot and Many Faces Education Centre before fanning out across town to other activities.
Filmon said she had visited the north before, particularly with her husband, former Manitoba premier Gary Filmon. She said there’s nothing in Manitoba quite like the north.
“What stands out for me is absolutely the passion everybody has for their community. There is such pride,” said Filmon.
“Honestly, I don't know that I've been anywhere else, from the minute you get picked up, that’s like it. People said, ‘I was born here’ or ‘I wasn't born here and I chose to come here and I love it. I wouldn't be anywhere else.’ It has happened over and over again. Something is happening and you're doing some things very, very well.”
Over their time in the community, each held and participated in several events. During her two-day visit in Flin Flon, the Governor General paddled with students from Ruth Betts Community School and Ecole McIsaac School at Phantom Lake, held a public walk of Flinty’s Boardwalk and showed up at some Culture Days events. Filmon stayed longer and took part in more Culture Days festivities, giving open speeches for the Human Books event, the Water and the Wild by Whitbread and Watt event at City Hall and attending events like the high school Superstar program.
When asked what message they hoped to share with the community and with children, Payette was concise, saying she wanted to help spread pride in Canada and its people.
“We are lucky to live in Canada. We have a country that is for everybody. It doesn’t matter what you want to become - this is the place where we can accomplish it,” she said.
The Lieutenant Governor had a chance to speak with school kids, local officials, artists and community organizers during her time up north and sounded impressed in conversation.
“When I have an opportunity to meet school children and be in that environment, I want them to believe in themselves, to know that they're leaders and that they can make a difference,” said Filmon during the Hapnot visit.
“When you do that, you have a very different environment to live in, whether you're a youngster or an adult or a parent or whoever. If you look at all the things you’ve got going in Flin Flon, the leadership that I see of individuals who have come forward with whatever their idea is, their passion, they’ve been able to build a team around themselves and what they’ve done is outstanding.”
Payette made sure to distribute framed pictures to local dignitaries. Hapnot principal Steve Lytwyn, Flin Flon Mayor Cal Huntley and others each received framed photos of Manitoba from space, taken by Payette on the International Space Station.
“I remember being enthused by things that would happen in my city. Wherever we go, we try to bring pictures with us,” Payette said.
“It’s very important to hear people, their ideas, their initiatives.”