MLA offers emotional eulogy to son as legislature returns

Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster remembers Jayko Wilson Craig Lyall-Ritchie, who died by suicide March 13

Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster delivers an emotional eulogy about her late son at the legislature Wednesday. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

This story was updated on May 25, 2023 at 9:15 a.m. ET.

In an emotional eulogy, Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster remembered her late son Jayko Wilson Craig Lyall-Ritchie when the legislative assembly of Nunavut opened Wednesday afternoon.

Lyall-Ritchie died by suicide March 13, right at the end of the legislative sitting earlier this year. He was in his late 20s.

Jayko Wilson Craig Lyall-Ritchie died by suicide earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of Janet Brewster/Facebook)

While other MLAs delivered statements updating the assembly on news from their communities, Brewster used her time to pause and remember Lyall-Ritchie, who she described as a caring but imperfect person.

“Despite the adversity that he faced, he continually focused on being a caring person, caring, caring to family and everyone in his life, he could always be counted on to uplift the spirits of everyone around him,” she said.

In 2018, Brewster and Lyall-Ritchie testified at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

In her testimony, Brewster talked about her late aunt, Lyall-Ritchie’s mother Sylvia Lyall, who was killed by her longtime partner in 2004 when Lyall-Ritchie was nine years old.

Brewster took in Lyall-Ritchie and raised him after his mother died.

In his testimony, Lyall-Ritchie admitted to having been abusive toward women, but added that he had turned things around in his life.

On Wednesday, Brewster shared that part of Lyall-Ritchie’s story in her statement.

“Like many of us, he made big mistakes that may have felt insurmountable in the moments and years as he grew into adulthood,” she said.

“And he’s sometimes very publicly owned up to those mistakes, focusing on what he cared about: uplifting targets of abuse, especially women.

“He so bravely admitted that he was part of the problem.”

Brewster shared her appreciation for all her son’s friends and family members, and thanked her MLA colleagues for supporting her during a difficult time.

She also shared a message about the widespread tragedy of suicide in Nunavut.

“I’m acutely aware that not every citizen has the opportunity to so publicly acknowledge those that we have lost to suicide,” she said.

“I want to assure every grieving family and community that I stand here with you, promising that I will continue to do whatever is in my power, to support those left behind and to work with our leadership to take decisive action to prevent our families and communities from suffering further loss.”

Here are resources for people in distress who need to talk to someone:

Kamatsiaqtut Help Line is Nunavut-specific and offers services in Inuktitut. Phone: 979-3333 for Iqaluit residents and 1-800-265-3333 for other Nunavummiut.

The First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Helpline: 1-855-242-3310 or chat online at

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Hey Nunatsiaq on

    When talking about suicide, it is common practice to add a list of resources at the end of the article for those who may need it. Come on Nunatsiaq, surely you can do better.

    If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, don’t hesitate to reach to someone. If you don’t know where to start, start with one of these:
    Kamatsiaqtut Help Line 1-867-979-3333
    Toll-free: 1-800-265-3333 (24 hours)
    Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (24 hours)
    Crisis Text Line 686868 (24 hours)
    EMERGENCY SERVICES: Visit your health center or the Qikiqtani General Hospital if in Iqaluit

    That being said, I am very sorry for the loss of this young man. All my condolences to his family and friends

    • Posted by Hey Nunatsiaq on

      I see you updated the article. Thanks Nunatsiaq

  2. Posted by URSUS on

    My deepest sympathy to all those who loved and lost Jayko. Ever since my time in Taloyoak in the mid 60s, my memories (starting with Nipisha & Ernie) and respect for all members of clan Lyall run warm and deep

  3. Posted by So very sad on

    Janet and other family members – deep condolences of the loss of Jayko. One of my daughters was a classmate of Jayko’s over the years, and we remember well when his mother was killed. My now-adult children feel his loss, and wish they had known that Jayko was struggling. So very sad that this young man died.

  4. Posted by Michael Angnakak on

    deeply sadden to learn of my friends passing through the news; i had recently moved from home. deeply sorry for all the family and friends that dearly loved this beautiful soul. i knew from some time that Jayko struggled and always tried to lend my ear if he needed to talk. its sad that another beautiful soul is lost to death by suicide.

    i hope the Government of Nunavut , NTI and Federal pull together to create centre that specializes in suicide and trauma . its 2023 for f sakes, and no true system is there to help people whom are struggling.

    deepest condolences

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