Canadian Ranger dies of natural causes while on exercise in Resolute, Nunavut

John Ukuqtunnuaq was from Taloyoak, Nunavut. The 56-year-old died of a heart attack on Feb. 14, according to his widow, Helen Ukuqtunnuaq.

John Ukuqtunnuaq, 56, was from Taloyoak, Nunavut

John Ukuqtunnuaq, 56, was a Canadian Ranger and search and rescue volunteer. (Submitted by George Aklah)

A Canadian Ranger died of natural causes while on an exercise in Resolute, Nunavut, last week.

John Ukuqtunnuaq was from Taloyoak, Nunavut. The 56-year-old died of a heart attack on Feb. 14, according to his widow, Helen Ukuqtunnuaq.

John Ukuqtunnuaq had been with the Rangers for nine years, and according to his brother-in-law George Aklah, he participated in every exercise he could with the Rangers.

From Feb. 4 to Feb. 17, the Canadian Army conducted a northern exercise in Resolute (NOREX 18) with the Rangers. They focused on guiding, bear-scouting and predator control.

Ukuqtunnuaq's widow says he had been sick before he left and both she and the Rangers tried to convince him to go to the health centre, but he didn't want to.

"He complains about his chest when he's home. I would tell him to go to health centre, but it's really hard to tell him to go to health centre because he wouldn't say yes," she said.

Eventually, the Rangers convinced him to visit the clinic in Resolute.

"The last time I talked with him was when he called me ... he said that he's at the health centre and that he's OK, then he said he'll call me some other time."

Minutes later, she said a military officer called her back and said he would be medevaced to Iqaluit.

"But then it was too late," she said.

Loved the land

Ukuqtunnuaq's body was returned to Taloyoak on the scheduled flight with the rest of the Rangers from the community on Saturday.

Helen Ukuqtunnuaq said the three days she had to wait for his return were difficult.

"He always used to tell me if he ever passed away before me, he wanted to be buried right away, he didn't want us to wait that long," she said.

She remembers him as good with machines and an active search and rescue volunteer.

"He'd do anything to search when there's someone out there needs to be [rescued], no matter if he's sick or not," she said.

"He cares about his family so much, he taught my boys out on the land." 

Taloyoak resident Bob Lyall says with Ukuqtunnuaq's passing there will be a "hole in the community."