Snowmobile tragedy claims speaker of the house

Jobie Nutarak “had won the respect of his peers”



Nunavut lost a long-serving political figure when Jobie Nutarak died in a snowmobiling accident on April 22.

Nutarak, 58, was on a hunting trip about 400 km from Pond Inlet town when the accident occurred.

He was the third in a train of three snowmobiles traveling over rough terrain, an RCMP statement says. Sheatie Tagak and Jayko Alooloo, his companions, turned back to look for Nutarak when he failed to appear over a hill.

The found him beneath his snowmobile. After attempting CPR, they contacted the RCMP. Police believe the death was accidental, but are waiting for the results of an autopsy.

Nutarak leaves behind a wife and five children.

Premier Paul Okalik had tears in his eyes when he spoke to reporters outside the chambers of the Legislative Assembly on Monday.

“Today I went to my office, and I know it won’t be the same again,” Okalik said.

“Our thoughts and deepest prayers are with the family. He was very close especially with his wife and his grandchildren.”

In a written statement, Okalik said that Nutarak, as the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, “had won the respect of his peers and through his calming presence had the ability to mediate divisive debates.”

“It is our hope that his family may find some solace in knowing that his legacy was one of service to his fellow Inuit and all Nunavummiut.”

Nutarak was the first confirmed member of the Nunavut legislature when it first opened in 1999.

John Quirke, the clerk of the legislature, called the death “tragic” and noted this is the first time such a tragedy has occurred in the Nunavut government.

When the legislature resumes its currents sitting on June 9, Nunavut’s 18 MLAs will decide whether to elect a new speaker right away, or to rely on Pangnirtung MLA Peter Kilabuk, who is deputy speaker, and elect a new speaker after a by-election is held in the Tununiq riding, which Nutarak represented.

A by-election in the Tununiq riding, which includes Pond Inlet, must take place within six months, according to Nunavut law.

A funeral date had not been announced as of Nunatsiaq News’ deadline on Wednesday.

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