Growing up in a remote Northern community, Nick Sibbeston had little reason to believe he would one day fulfill his mother’s ambition of holding a career where he would “wear a white shirt.” Torn away from his family and placed in residential school at the age of five, Sibbeston endured loneliness, callous treatment and sexual assault by an older boy, but discovered a love of learning that would compel him to complete a law degree and pursue a career in politics.
As a young, firebrand politician, Sibbeston played an instrumental role during a critical moment in Northwest Territories politics, advocating tirelessly to support the economic and political development of First Nations people in the North, and participating in early discussions of the separation of Nunavut. Sibbeston’s career advanced in great strides, first as an MLA, then one of Canada’s first Aboriginal lawyers, then as a cabinet minister and eventually premier of the Northwest Territories. Finally, he was appointed to the Senate of Canada, where he continues to represent the people of Canada’s North, not least in advocating for the generations affected by residential school policies.
Although his years at residential school compelled Sibbeston to fight tirelessly for the rights of Aboriginal northerners, they also left a mark on his mental health, fuelling continual battles with anxiety, depression and addiction. It was only in later life that healing began to take place, as he battled his demons openly, supported not just by the medical community but also by his strong faith and the love of his wife and family.
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