Peter Murdoch, 86, an “ally and servant of Nunavik,” dies Dec. 9
“Rest in peace, our Ilannaaq Peter”
(Corrected Dec. 11, 1:00 p.m.)
Peter Murdoch, a dear and admired friend to many in the eastern Arctic, died Dec. 9 at his home on Montreal’s West Island, leaving behind him an unbroken legacy of service that dates to the late 1940s.
Ilagiisaq, the Fédération des Co-opératives du Nouveau-Québec, where Murdoch worked for 30 years, described Murdoch as an “ally and servant” of the Inuit of Nunavik in a statement released Dec. 10.
“The Ilagiisaq bids adieux to one of the greatest friends it has ever known,” Ilagiisaq said.
Murdoch, born Sept. 29, 1929 in St. John’s, Nfld., first made his way to the eastern Arctic in 1947, where he worked as a clerk and manager for the Hudson’s Bay Co.
His work with the HBC took him to Kimmirut, Pangnirtung, Cape Dorset, Kuujjuaq, Kangiqsualujjuaq, Kangirsuk, Clyde River, Pond Inlet and Puvirnituq, then known as Povungnituk, where he arrived with his wife, Lucille, in 1955.
It was on Baffin Island that Murdoch learned to speak the Inuit language and learned how to appreciate the Inuit way of life.
“I enjoyed hunting a lot, going out with people, seeing the way they lived, visiting in tents, learning the language. I never tried to learn it. If someone told me something, I just remembered it,” Murdoch told Nunatsiaq News journalist Jane George in 1991.
“When things were tough, no one complained. You accepted your life as it came and I felt then that we could have learned a lot from the Inuit and the ways they relate to each other,” Murdoch said.
In 1958, the federal government hired Murdoch to look at low-cost housing solutions for Inuit and to help with the creation of the new community of Rankin Inlet.
Also in 1958, Murdoch and Father André Steinmann started a sculptor’s association in Puvirnituq that in 1960 became a co-operative: a small seed, which, over time, grew into today’s Ilagiisaq, or FCNQ, with stores and hotels throughout Nunavik.
Murdoch also worked for a time in Apex at the Apex Rehabilitation Centre.
And, between 1964 and 1966, he lived in Yellowknife as regional administrator for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
In 1966, Murdoch also collaborated with the late Farley Mowat in northern Quebec, Baffin Island and the western Arctic on a series of CBC Northern Service radio broadcasts.
“It was during this trip that the directors of the Puvirnituq Co-operative Association, and Alasie Alasuak, and Father André Steinmann asked Peter to help them set up a co-operative federation for the then existing co-operatives of northern Quebec,” Ilagiisaq said in its release.
From 1967 until his retirement in 1997, Murdoch served as general manager of the co-operative federation that came to be known as the FCNQ, or Ilagiisaq.
During that period, he and Lucille helped develop Inuit language terminology for business transactions so that co-op directors and managers with no formal education could run their operations.
Murdoch also developed the FCNQ’s mission statement: “working together to develop as a people, leaving none behind.”
“Those he worked with at the FCNQ regarded Peter as friend, mentor, confidante, advisor and father figure. He taught Inuktitut to many and his person-to-person style endeared him to his colleagues,” Ilagiisaq said.
Murdoch is survived by Lucille Murdoch, their children and grandchildren.
“We share our sadness with those he touched and console ourselves in the knowledge that Peter leaves behind a family united, a thriving Federation and the people stronger for having grown with him,” Lucille Murdoch said in a statement.
In 2003, Murdoch received the Ordre du Mérite from the Conseil québécois de la co-opération et de la mutualité.
And in December 2014, Murdoch was named to the Order of Canada.
Aliva Tulugak, the president of Ilagiisaq, praised Murdoch for bettering the lives of Nunavik Inuit.
“It was first in Kimmirut that he learned of the Inuit, their values and philosophy. He said he had not had a teacher in life, but the Inuit showed him how they loved their fellow Inuit, so when Tommy Manning’s mother made him winter clothing of caribou fur he was amazed,” Tulugak said.
“Peter not only worked for economic development in Nunavik, but he cared for the Inuit and he and his family really contributed to the betterment of our lives in Nunavik. Rest in peace, our Ilannaaq Peter.”
Visitations for Murdoch will take place at the Rideau Memorial Gardens and Funeral Home at 4275 Sources Blvd. in Dollard-des-Ormeaux.
Visitation times are: Saturday, Dec. 12, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m; and Sunday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., followed by a funeral service.
A memorial service will be held in Puvirnituq at a later date.
Ilagiisaq’s original statement said Peter Murdoch’s death occurred Dec. 7. However, they have informed us that the correct date is Dec. 9 and we have corrected our story accordingly.