Arviat man shares hope for “normalcy” during Governor General’s new year message
Joe Karetak represented Nunavut in Payette’s 2021 video greeting
Getting back to normal after a “challenging” year is Arviat resident Joe Karetak’s hope for 2021 — one he shared with Canadians during a portion of the Governor General’s new year message.
The COVID-19 pandemic figured prominently in Governor General Julie Payette’s video greeting posted on her website.
“Everything is different” because of the disease, Payette said. “No one could imagine what 2020 would bring.”
Karetak’s sister, former Nunavut commissioner Nellie Taptaqut Kusugak, asked him to speak in the video after the Governor General’s office contacted her. In November, he agreed but then forgot about it until Payette’s office emailed him with instructions three weeks later.
“I had no idea it was going to be to this level,” said Karetak, a researcher with the Aqqiumavvik Society, during a phone interview New Year’s Day.
In the video, Payette turned to the provincial lieutenant-governors and territorial commissioners “to share their thoughts and their hopes for the year to come.”
When Nunavut’s turn came up, the territory was represented by Karetak, who lives in Arviat, the community hit hardest by COVID-19’s arrival in November.
“Start to see some normalcy and speedy recovery from this pandemic,” Karetak said.
Nunavut has reported 266 cases of COVID-19, including 222 in Arviat, according to the government’s Dec. 30 update.
His immediate family avoided COVID-19, but Karetak said it was “stressful” knowing some of his relatives had it.
To prevent the spread of the disease, Nunavummiut went through a territory-wide, two-week lockdown in late November and early December.
The territory’s only recorded COVID-19-related death was of an Arviat man in mid-December. Nunavut ended the year with only three active cases of the coronavirus.
While the other vice-regal representatives were identified by their titles as “the Honourable” or as lieutenant-governor, Karetak was identified simply as an “Arviat Citizen.”
When the lieutenant-governors were invited to sum up 2020 in a single word, they said “courage,” “resiliency,” and “gratitude.”
Karetak added “challenging.”
The Governor General’s office asked him to film answers to questions about what made him happy in 2020 and what he was looking forward to in 2021.
“I had to think about how to say things in a very short time,” he said.
Filming the clips was Karetak’s first attempt at using his cellphone for videos.
“I don’t even take selfies on my phone,” said Karetak, adding he enlisted his 13-year-old son Jonny to help him with the technology.
Payette, a former astronaut, said “thanks to science” and the development of COVID-19 vaccines — such as the Moderna vaccine that arrived in Iqaluit earlier this week — there is “now a light shining at the end of the tunnel.”
“Now more than ever, we must stay vigilant, continue to look out for each other and remain patient,” Payette said.