Aurèle St-Amant, a pioneer of Nunavik’s co-op movement, dies at 83 from COVID-19
“His days are now over but his influence continues to resonate”
Many in Nunavik are mourning the loss of Aurèle St-Amant, who died on April 13 at the age of 83.
St-Amant, a longtime accountant and financial advisor with the Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec, was the last surviving member of the small group chosen by the co-operative’s founders in Nunavik to build their regional federation in the 1960s.
St-Amant died of COVID-19.
“Aurèle St-Amant will be remembered for his professional skills, his many years of service and his unusual personality; but mostly, Aurèle will be remembered for the deep affection he had for the people he served,” said a release from the FCNQ, known as Ilagiisaq in Inuktitut.
St-Amant managed to remain pragmatic in difficult times, such as when a co-op burned to the ground or when an avalanche devastated Kangiqsualujjuaq in 1999, the FCNQ said.
But the FCNQ said St-Amant would mostly be remembered as “a warm and modest man who had a subtle but playful sense of humour.”
St-Amant also mentored a number of employees who still work for the FCNQ.
“His days are now over but his influence continues to resonate. We will miss this gentle giant and thank his surviving family for so generously sharing him with all of us,” the FCNQ said.
His career with the FCNQ started in 1965.
After meeting Father André Steinmann, Peter Murdoch and the local carvers of Puvirnituq, who were forming the co-operative in that community, St-Amant became the acting auditor for the co-ops and trained administrators in how to manage the stores.
Two years later, five co-operatives joined together to form a federation that today is the largest non-government employer in Nunavik, with more than 400 full-time and 140 seasonal employees in Nunavik and 160 full-time employees in Montreal.
Although his family lived in Lévis, St-Amant spent months in the North, where he prepared financial statements, attended meetings, counted inventories and did whatever the co-ops needed.
“Despite this, Aurèle never made it seem like a personal hardship; he embraced the people and their ways which corresponded so naturally with the co-operative model he believed in,” the FCNQ said.
During his regular tours, St-Amant was often greeted with an affectionate “Attatatsiagnai” (Hi, granddad) by local co-op members who recognized his full immersion into Inuit society and appreciated his commitment to Nunavimmiut and their co-operative movement, the FCNQ said.
“Aurèle played a big role in training Inuit in learning bookkeeping. [He] became part of the Inuit family here,” said Aliva Tulugak, a former FCNQ president.
St-Amant also brought his family to Nunavik during the summer.
During the early 1980s, St-Amant worked with his son Eric to create a computerized version of his own accounting system for the co-ops, a system that remained in place until 2002.
Due to the pandemic, no funeral date has been fixed, but it will be posted later here.