Northern nurse receives award for service in Arctic Canada

Nurses are the front-line health-care workers in the majority of Canada’s Inuit and First Nations communities. (Radio-Canada)
A nurse working in Nunavik, the Inuit region of northern Quebec, was among three recipients who received awards on Monday from Canada’s Department of Indigenous Services in recognition of their contributions to the health-care system.

Lyrithe Villeneuve, originally from the city of Saguenay, Quebec, has worked in the North for 42 years and began her career in 1976 in the Inuit community of Kangiqsujuaq, said a press release from Indigenous Services Canada on Monday.

Other recipients of the Award of Excellence in Nursing include:

  • Bodiene Dusson, an Indigenous Community Health Nurse on the Saulteaux First Nation in the province of Saskatchewan
  • Cheryl Yost, a First Nations and Inuit Health Branch employed nurse at the Sandy Lake Nursing Station in northern Ontario
Front-line workers

The majority of Canada’s northern Indigenous communities are without hospitals or full-time doctors. Nurses are often the front-line healthcare workers, caring for the entire community. But attracting nurses to these remote and often isolated communities can be a challenge. Positions can often remain vacant.

The Award of Excellence in Nursing has been handed out every year since 2004 to recognize the work being done by nurses in First Nations and Inuit communities, says the Government of Canada website. Candidates are nominated by their peers.

“This year’s recipients of the Award of Excellence in Nursing have shown tremendous dedication to the nursing profession and to delivering quality healthcare to First Nations and Inuit communities,” Jane Philpott, Canada’s minister of Indigenous Services, said in a news release on Monday.

“Congratulations and thank you to Lyrithe Villeneuve, Bodiene Dussion, and Cheryl Yost for your exceptional commitment and contributions to improving Indigenous healthcare in Canada.”

The Award of Excellence in Nursing is handed out annually to coincide with National Nursing Week.

National Nursing Week 2018  runs from May 7 to 13.

Eye on the Arctic Video Vault: Inside Arctic Nursing

Attracting and retaining nurses in the Inuit regions of Arctic Canada remains a huge challenge. Finding nurses who understand the languages and culture is even more difficult.

Before she retired in 2017, Minnie Akparook was one of only a small handful of Inuit nurses working in the Canadian Arctic.

In this conversation with Eye on the Arctic, she talks about the obstacles she overcame to start her career and what nursing has meant to her life.

The interview was originally launched during National Nursing Week 2011.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Mental health in Canada – Can community programs in Arctic Canada make the difference?, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark/Greenland: Researchers must be honest with Arctic peoples about food contaminants says doctor, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Municipalities in Arctic Finland to outsource local healthcare for 15 years, Yle News

United States: Drinking, smoking consumption in decline, but suicide plans on the rise among Alaska teens, Alaska Dispatch News

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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