Nunavut says goodbye to Igloolik leader and businessman
Elijah Evaluarjuk died Feb. 10
Nunavummiut will remember Elijah Evaluarjuk for his big heart, delicious pizza and the soft-spoken leadership he brought to the territory over his career.
The Igloolik family man, businessman and former mayor died at home Feb. 10 surrounded by his family, six months after he was diagnosed with cancer. He was 60.
“Everyone knew him well, even outside of Igloolik,” said Igloolik’s current mayor, Celestino Uyarak. “He was an outgoing guy and easy to talk with.”
Evaularjuk served as mayor in the Baffin community in the mid-2000s, but he was best known as the owner and operator of Igloolik’s Tujumivik Hotel. He inherited the business from his late father, Mark Evaluarjuk, a former MLA in the 1970s and 1980s when Nunavut was still a part of the Northwest Territories.
Evaluarjuk struggled with alcoholism in the early years of managing the hotel, but sought treatment for his addiction and became an advocate for sobriety and healthy living.
He drew a following from across the North for his hotel restaurant, Top of the World Pizza, dubbed “the best pizza in the circumpolar world,” which drew occasional orders from communities as far away as Cambridge Bay and Yellowknife.
At the end of the business day, Uyarak said Evaluarjuk would often put a call out on the local radio for people to come by and pick up leftover food from the restaurant’s kitchen.
“He was always involved in the community,” Uyarak recalled, and not just as a business person and leader, but also as a talented musician who played back-up with legendary rockers Northern Haze.
“We will miss him very much.”
Since 2014, Evaluarjuk had served as a board member for the Qulliq Energy Corp. and, since 2016, as its chair.
At Nunavut’s legislative assembly March 12, Jeannie Ehaloak, minister responsible for the QEC, recognized Evaluaruk’s strong commitment to the organization—namely, his efforts in pursuing renewable energy opportunities and net metering.
“He could always be counted on for his quiet leadership style which encouraged a collaborative environment,” Ehaloak told the legislature.
“He will be remembered for his kind smile and gentle demeanour.”
QEC president Bruno Pereira said Evaluarjuk was soft-spoken as a leader, but skilled at mediating conflict.
“It was the consistency that he brought to the way he managed board meetings; addressing issues honestly but respectfully,” he said.
“You could always rely on him to be a calm and fair individual.”
Pereira travelled to Igloolik for the Feb. 14 funeral for Evaluarjuk, which drew most of the community to Igloolik’s Catholic church.
“He was very well-regarded,” Pereira said.
QEC’s vice-chair, Bert Rose, is now serving as acting chair until the minister appoints a new permanent chair in the coming months, Pereira said.