Mary-Jean Cormier

March 2024

From Mariday Park to Miles Street, CBC’s Mary-Jean Cormier has crossed Canada shining a spotlight on people and issues from all areas of the country, looking for stories to share.
“I started getting interested in journalism when I was a teenager,” says Cormier.

“I was a founding member of the Regional Multicultural Youth Council (RMYC) and was very active with the group in Thunder Bay and around Northwestern Ontario, holding workshops, doing anti-racism presentations and cultural sharing events. That led to many opportunities to talk to the media, including interviews on CBC radio’s morning show, which at that time was The Great Northwest. But each time I talked to the media, I thought about being on the other side of the microphone.”

Cormier grew up on the city’s northside, the youngest of six children. In Grade 3, she moved to Kenora, Ontario for 6 years, before moving back to the city to attend high school at St. Ignatius. After graduation, she pursued a university education in political science and public administration, studying for one year at Lakehead before transferring to Kings College at Western. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree, she went on to get her Honours in International Politics. 

“I returned to Thunder Bay and worked as a program co-ordinator for the RMYC,” she says. “But I was still considering journalism and ended up working part time at Thunder Bay Television, doing some work as a reporter, and briefly as a weekend sports anchor! That opportunity confirmed my interest in journalism, and I went back to university to study at Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan). Upon graduation, I was hired by CBC on a contract to work as a roving reporter for three Ontario stations. I was trained in Ottawa but then worked in Windsor, Sudbury and finally Thunder Bay.”

As she wrapped up her roving reporter contract in Thunder Bay, her shift to early mornings began when she was hired to co-host Daybreak in Northern BC.

There, she was based in Prince Rupert on the north coast, but was drawn back to Thunder Bay just two years later to take on the morning news role, where she worked alongside Lisa Laco for nearly 20 years.

“During that time on the news desk, my love for Superior Morning and our amazing audience just kept growing,” Cormier says. “And so, after Lisa’s retirement and passing, the move into the host chair felt natural. I was so honoured to have the opportunity to continue to share the stories of our community.”

And there have been many stories!

For Cormier, the most rewarding part of the job boils down to the people.

“As much as I love my mornings in the CBC studio on Miles Street, the highlights in my career have been the opportunities to get out into the community,” she says. “Our pop-up programs at the marina, the airport, Kamview, the Canada Games Complex, or up on Anemkii Wajiw, to name just a few, have brought many special moments and great radio. I get to meet interesting people every day and talk about what’s important to them. I’m able to have great conversations with my CBC colleagues and our guests and share all of it with our listeners. I also have the opportunity to look at issues that matter to people in Thunder Bay and ask the tough questions when needed.

Cormier agrees there are still many challenges facing our community, and the broader region that we serve.

“I think a big challenge to my job currently is trying to serve such a large region. There are so many stories that should be told throughout Northwestern Ontario, but we can’t always get to them. Our region is vast and the distances between communities can be challenging. I also feel the city still needs to do more to battle racism and narrow the socio-economic divide, to build a stronger, more unified community.”

And she thinks looking to the future of our community should involve hearing the voices of youth.

“In the last year or so, I have also been working with a couple of classes at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School to introduce students to journalism,” she says with a smile. “That led to an award-winning interview the students conducted with celebrity Ryan Reynolds and a continuing podcast. This work with the students has truly been the highlight of my journalism career!”

While her current job has her behind the microphone, Cormier pursues an active lifestyle with her family, both indoors and out, and she credits the ample opportunities to do both
as a big factor in bringing her back to Thunder Bay.

“Growing up in Northwestern Ontario, I developed a great love for the outdoors, particularly since most of my summer was spent at my family’s camp on Dog Lake. That’s still my favourite place and a big reason why I wanted to stay in Thunder Bay. Now I get to enjoy my family’s camp with my husband and three sons.”

While Cormier loves getting away from the city for much-needed R&R, she also embraces city life, noting the city’s amazing food scene, with great restaurants, a fabulous market and access to so many local farms and food producers. She loves the opportunities for fun and sport at any age, whether she’s playing soccer or curling, trying out pickleball, or paddling a dragonboat. And she loves watching her boys play hockey, hit the slopes, row on the Kam, or take up fencing. She also finds opportunities for family fun in the stands watching LU varsity athletes, either at the Fieldhouse or the Gardens. With an abundance of activities that showcase a vibrant, ever-changing urban culture, Cormier insists that the opportunities are endless.

“When people ask why I came back to Thunder Bay, I always explain that the living is ‘easy’,” she says. “I can get almost anywhere in under 15 minutes.

I know where to find any goods or services I need from people I know and trust. I can enjoy my beautiful, historic, southside neighbourhood near Vickers Park, and then quickly be walking at the marina beside Lake Superior or popping out to camp in under an hour. We have access to good post-secondary education options, a good regional hospital, and as it turned out, a cancer centre that I needed a few years ago.

I can work, drive my kids to hockey practice, enjoy dinner and still catch the TBSO in a world class auditorium -- all in one day!”

Join Mary-Jean Cormier weekdays 6 to 8:30 a.m. on CBC Radio One 88.3 FM or stream live or on-demand on CBC Listen.

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

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