Noojmowin Teg AGM marks new beginnings and a fond farewell

AUNDECK OMNI KANING – Noojmowin Teg Health Centre held its 2019-2020 annual general meeting via the virtual meeting software Zoom on Tuesday, June 30. The occasion marked outgoing executive director Pam Williamson’s 15th and final AGM, providing a bittersweet air to the occasion.

The meeting was opened with a prayer by board director and Wiikwemkoong representative Terry Beaudry, followed by opening remarks and welcome by board chair Ryan Corbiere.

“The Island is very beautiful,” noted incoming executive director Danielle Wilson, who said she is looking forward to exploring more of the Island with her husband over the coming months. “Once this pandemic has passed, I look forward to meeting personally all of the people I have been seeing virtually.” She said she finds that the online meetings lack the personal touch that is so important in connecting with people. “When we do finally get to meet face to face, I think it will be a lot like meeting for the first time,” she laughed.

Ms. Wilson acknowledged that she has large shoes to fill in following Ms. Williamson, but said that she looks forward to continuing the work on projects the former executive director had spearheaded. “Especially the sexual assault and domestic violence (SADV) forensic clinic,” she said. “This is the first community- and culturally-based SADV clinic in Ontario—the others are all based in hospitals. This is definitely part of Pam’s legacy.”

For her part, Ms. Williamson said that she is confident that she is leaving the organization in good hands with Ms. Williams.

Ms. Williamson’s actual final day at work was Friday, July 3, and her staff processed past her outside of the Noojmowin Teg offices in Aundeck Omni Kaning to honour her. Still maintaining social distancing, the staff dismounted to share a special dessert before bidding a final adieu.

“I was speechless,” said Ms. Williamson. “I really love that team.”

Ms. Williamson noted that she has been preparing for her departure for some time, beginning the exit strategy five years ago, and that each meeting over the past several months she has been saying goodbye. “They must be tired of me saying goodbye,” she laughed.

As for the final send-off, Ms. Williamson said that “it was absolutely perfect; I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day or time.” Ms. Williamson said that she might return to say goodbye in a more personal way once the pandemic has abated. “Maybe at the Christmas dance in a more informal setting, just seeing old friends,” she said. During her extended departure, Ms. Williamson noted that “everyone has been very kind to me.”

As for the organization itself, Ms. Williamson said that she was certain that it would continue to follow the fundamental premise that “culture is medicine,” as well as focussing on partnerships in furthering its work. “We never do anything alone,” she said. “We all have to work together. That happened with COVID—everyone came together.”

A video of the parade for Ms. Williamson can be viewed online on the organization’s Facebook page.

The incoming executive was appointed by the Noojmowin Teg board and consists of Ryan Corbiere returning as chair, vice-chair Linda Debassige, AOK Chief Patsy Corbiere as treasurer and, in a newly created position, John Dube as secretary.

“Previously, we had a secretary/treasurer, but the board decided that with the increased workload it would split that position into two parts,” explained Ms. Wilson.

Rounding out the board are directors Terry Beaudry, Janine Williams, Jasmine Recollet and Dolores Nahwegahbo.

Receiving plaques in recognition of their long service were: Kim Genereux, five years; Crystal Morra, 10 years; Mark Peltier, 10 years; and Debbie Francis, 15 years.

The board approved the appointment of Freedlandt Caldwell Reilley as auditors through to 2020-2023.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For a full exit interview with Ms. Williamson, please see the story on Page 3 of the July 8 Expositor.