A well known Yellowknife environmentalist passed away on Saturday after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just last month.
Doug Ritchie dedicated his life to protecting the environment through his years as head of Ecology North.
“Doug had absolutely no regrets whatsoever about his dying," says his wife, France Benoit. "He felt that he had done all he could.”
Ritchie, originally from Kelowna, B.C., first came North in 1987 as a lifeguard in Fort McPherson. He spent some time in Arviat and Baker Lake in Nunavut before moving to Yellowknife in 1996.
He worked for the N.W.T. government, then quit his job to focus on the environment. For the past four years, he also worked with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.
“He was a friend and someone I admired a lot,” says Craig Scott, executive director of Ecology North, who first met Ritchie when both served as board members with the organization.
Scott says it was Ritchie who helped drive awareness of climate change in the North. “He was very dedicated to the environmental movement.”
He describes Ritchie as “understated,” but also formidably determined and hard working.
“First and foremost he was a community man,” says Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley, who was friends with Ritchie for many years, and who also worked at Ecology North in the 1990s.
Bromley says Ritchie, who was known as “the gentle giant,” was “ahead of his time," when it came to environmental issues, from planning how a carbon tax could work to promoting the use of clotheslines across Yellowknife.
Ritchie’s sudden illness and death came as a shock to many. Diagnosed on Dec. 9, he moved into palliative care on Wednesday and died late Saturday evening.
“He went through such a courageous and graceful process as he was dying, that we're stunned,” Bromley says.
And he says Ritchie’s legacy is firm.
“I'm already hearing people say we're redoubling our commitment to work hard for the environment."
Benoit is planning a celebration of Ritchie's life in the spring.