'Our shining star': Candy Palmater to be honoured with sacred fire in Ugpi'ganjig

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Candy Palmater's partner Denise Tompkins said she died peacefully at home in Toronto. She was 53.  (The Candy Show - image credit)
Candy Palmater's partner Denise Tompkins said she died peacefully at home in Toronto. She was 53. (The Candy Show - image credit)

Ugpi'ganjig will be lighting a sacred fire this week to honour community member Candy Palmater, a comedian and TV and radio personality who died Saturday.

Palmater grew up in Ugpi'ganjig, a Mi'kmaw First Nation in northern New Brunswick formerly called Eel River Bar. She later spent three decades living in Halifax and then Toronto.

"We're really proud of her," said Ugpi'ganjig Chief Sacha LaBillois. "We can say she's our shining star, and we're proud to say that she is from Ugpi'ganjig."

Palmater, a former lawyer, created and hosted the award-winning The Candy Show on APTN, was a regular co-host on CTV's afternoon talk show The Social and acted in various shows, including Trailer Park Boys. She also hosted The Candy Palmater Show on CBC Radio One, narrating the CBC-TV series True North Calling.

"She's like our own rez-famous celebrity," said LaBillois. "We're very saddened by her loss."

LaBillois said the sacred fire will be lit Wednesday and will be maintained 24 hours a day for four days, for Palmater's friends and family to offer prayers and pay their respects.

"It's typical when someone passes in our community, the family really takes the lead on requesting a sacred fire," LaBillois said. "But we have elders and knowledge keepers in our community and it's a collaborative effort … because you need people to volunteer to be at the fire."

Palmater was proudly Indigenous, proudly feminist, and proudly LGBT. LaBillois said she was a person many can continue to look up to.

"She's a really great role model to all women and to the LBGTQ2S community," she said. "I think any young Indigenous youth and women would look up to her and see that she's proof that anything's possible."

Serge Bouchard/Radio Canada
Serge Bouchard/Radio Canada

Much of Palmater's family lives in Ugpi'ganjig, and LaBillois said they will be at the forefront of planning how she will be commemorated.

"Honouring her and her family would be key to how we would carry this out … to leave that legacy for her family and for the youth of the community," LaBillois said.

She said she feels grateful she developed a friendship with Palmater as adults, and she thinks many people will be inspired by her memory.

"They'll remember her for her happy spirit and her presence she had around crowds. She was the type of person who could bring out a smile … she wanted to make people laugh."

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