Nunavut Speaker dies on snowmobile hunting trip

The Speaker of Nunavut's legislative assembly, Jobie Nutarak, died Saturday while out on his snowmobile on a hunting trip.

The Speaker of Nunavut's legislative assembly, Jobie Nutarak, died Saturday during a snowmobile hunting trip near his home in Pond Inlet on Baffin Island.

Nutarak, 58, leaves his wife and five children.

His body will be flown to Ottawa for autopsy.

Nutarak had been a respected member of Nunavut's legislature since being elected as MLA for Tunnuniq, which is the constituency for the community of Pond Inlet, when the territory was created in 1999.

He was unanimously elected as the first unilingual Inuktitut Speaker of the assembly in 2004.

Before joining the assembly, he was involved with Inuit land-claims organizations and other groups, including:

  • Community Education Council.
  • Baffin Divisional Board of Education.
  • Pond Inlet Health and Social Services Board.
  • Qikiqtani Inuit Association when it was still called the Baffin Regional Inuit Association.

Finance Minister David Simailak voiced the feelings of many in the territory when he heard the news of Nutarak's death.

"To the legislative assembly itself, it's a major loss," he told CBC's Patricia Bell. "He was a good man, a very good politician, a very good Speaker, very fair, very honest, very easy to work with and a wise counsel."

Simailak was also hurt on a personal level.

"I was shocked to hear the tragic news," he said. "I was hurt. I was everything I guess, disappointed, any and all feelings was all in one."

Known for keeping his cool

Nutarak had a reputation for his quiet style and calm manner. He remained calm during the many animated debates of the second Nunavut legislature, ruling on more issues than any Speaker before him.

Rankin Inlet MLA Tagak Curley says he had the respect of the house.

"The members of the assembly, whether we sometimes disagree or not, we're one big family," Curley said. "His presence was important to all the members of the house ... ."

Like his colleagues, Pangnirtung MLA Peter Kilabuk was clearly shaken by Nutarak's death.

"A colleague that we've spent a lot of good times and hard times with over the last seven years, and so for a lot of us it is losing a very close friend," Kilabuk said.