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New commissioner sworn in

Tim Edwards
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 31 2010

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - George Tuccaro, the NWT's new commissioner, is described by Francois Paulette, former chief of Smith's Landing First Nation, as a man who "makes people laugh."

NNSL photo/graphic

George Tuccaro, seen here performing at the Gateway Jamboree Music Festival in Enterprise on Aug. 8, 2009, has been named the new commissioner of the NWT. - NNSL file photo

"He has good healing medicine and it is laughter," said Paulette.

He has worked as a broadcaster, musician, inspirational speaker, and comedian through his life in the North.

Tuccaro and Paulette went through residential school together at the Holy Angels Indian Residential School in Fort Chipewyan. Since then the two have known each other off and on throughout the years.

When asked if he thought Tuccaro was a good candidate for commissioner, Paulette said "absolutely, oh yes."

Tuccaro found out he'd be stepping into the role of NWT commissioner earlier this month while on the 10th hole at the Harvest Golf Club in Kelowna, B.C.

"Each year I take a week off and I go down to spend a week with my cousin in Kelowna and play golf," Tuccaro said.

"I got a phone call ... from the prime minister's office that the Right Honourable Stephen Harper would like to talk to me in Ottawa about issues regarding the NWT," said Tuccaro, who knew right away it was about the commissioner's position.

"I couldn't tell anyone because I didn't want to pre-empt the prime minister," said Tuccaro.

Three days later he was shaking hands with Harper in Ottawa, accepting the position.

"This is the first time that the prime minister has taken this much interest in a position like this in the North," said Tuccaro, who added the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs usually makes the announcement.

"I found it very encouraging that the prime minister is deeply interested in the North and would want to be involved in the appointment of the Northern commissioners."

Tuccaro said the appointment is an honour, and he will try hard to fill the shoes of the outgoing commissioner, Tony Whitford.

"I am very happy to follow on the heels of Tony Whitford who I believe has done a wonderful job in the last five years," said Tuccaro. "I hope to continue serving with pride, courage and dignity."

Whitford told News/North he considers Tuccaro a "good friend" and that he expects him to "fit right in."

"He'll be able ... to go to all communities with ease and make people comfortable in his presence. He's a very compassionate person," said Whitford.

Whitford is entering retirement after nearly 55 years of work, most of it in public service. He said he plans to stay in Yellowknife, continue volunteering, and stay involved with the public, but the thing he is most excited about is spending some time with his newborn grandson, born on May 1.

When asked about his goals for the role, Tuccaro said "I plan on giving back to the North that's given me so much."

Tuccaro was born and raised in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., but most of his family was scattered across the NWT.

Tuccaro had a 30-year career in journalism, working for CBC North Radio. In the past few years he did a lot of volunteering, played a lot of music, and hosted workshops on self-esteem - a theme he hopes to enforce while in his new position.

"When people are really struggling ... a lot of time there isn't the esteem there to be able to set a goal in our life so that we are able to play a larger role," said Tuccaro. "Every Northern child has the ability or the capacity to exceed and we just need to put our minds, our hearts, our souls, into finding a goal so that we indeed can play a role in the North."

Tuccaro said the support of his family has been instrumental in his life and his achievements. He said his son Daryl, his daughter Amanda, his granddaughter Mikaela, and his wife Marilyn have always been there for him.

"My wife Marilyn has been with me for the last 38 years and she's been my pillar of strength," said Tuccaro.

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