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Jose Kusugak honoured by CRTC

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Wednesday, April 5, 2017


The late Jose Kusugak of Rankin Inlet has been honoured by the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) by having his name added to a list of Canadians who made highly-significant-and-distinctive contributions to Canadian communications during the past 150 years, helping to transform the Canadian communications sector. The CRTC made the announcement on March 21.

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Jose Kusugak was honoured by the CRTC for his distinctive contributions to Canadian communications this past month.

Longtime Northern broadcaster Jonah Kelly was also added to the list, and the two men will now have a meeting room named in their honour at the C.D. Howe building, which is the location of the CRTC's head office in Ottawa, Ont. Jose's son, Pujjuut, said his family was notified of the pending announcement via letter a few months ago. He said his dad had received a previous award from the CBC in regards to his work with Pujjuut.

"Before joining the CBC in the early '80s, my dad played a big part in the move to standardize the written language of Inuktitut and he was part of local programming in Rankin Inlet with the Inuit Broadcasting Corp. "

He and Jonah Kelly, who was also honoured by the CRTC, were the Inuktitut hosts during coverage of the Arctic Winter Games, so it started with projects like that, with my dad, of course, being an advocate for the Inuktitut language throughout his entire lifetime. "I'm really proud of all my dad did, and my own passion for our language has a lot to do with the work done by both my dad and my mother (Nellie), who is also a teacher, has taught Inuktitut and has done a lot of work for language and culture over the years."

Pujjuut said it was natural for him, having parents like Jose and Nellie, to become an Inuktitut teacher himself and to have a passion for preserving Inuktitut culture.

"It's something we, as a family, are all very proud of, and it's not just my mom and sisters, but the entire family who have been very supportive and really happy over my dad being recognized for this. "It's a special thing for all of us."

Pujjuut said Jose and Kelly were quite well-known by Inuit, both in Nunavut and elsewhere, for the work they did with the CBC. He said Kelly was a radio host for a long, long time and he's very happy to see Kelly also honured for all his work in Inuktitut.

'It's quite the honour' "Our family realizes there's not many people who receive something like this, so it's quite the honour for these two Inuit to be recognized like this.

"My dad has received quite a few honours during the past few years, and we're extremely grateful for each and every one. "Each one recognizes an aspect of my dad's life.

"So, even though it can be almost overwhelming at times, they're all very special to us because while he was alive, he was our dad, and now, with people requesting for things to be named after him or being recognized for his work, it really shows how much he did in his lifetime and the impact he had on other people in different areas."

Pujjuut said Jose as dad – the man who loved and raised his children and taught them as much as he could in different ways – will always be the first thing the family looks at, but the accolades make them all very proud. He said the next generation of young Kusugaks, especially those very young when he passed away, have questions about Jose and the awards and accolades illustrate his legacy outside of Jose, the dad, uncle, brother and grandfather.

"The things he's being recognized for are going to be around for a long time and they're really going to show his grand kids, for example, what kind or person their grandfather was and, hopefully, he inspires other people to work for something similar, or, in the end, work for something they're passionate about. "If you're passionate about something, you work the hardest and the best you can at it and that's something we try to talk to our kids about because that's the way my dad always went about things.

"He always told me, if you're going to commit to something, then make sure you do your best to do a good job of it. "You don't always have to be the best, but you have to make sure you give it the best effort you can, and those messages go a long, long way."

Jose's legacy is such that it casts a long shadow. Many sons and daughters have struggled under the pressure of living up to expecta- tions when their mother or father was a revered figure in their field. Puujuut said he had a bit of a hard time with it when Jose first passed away, but now, when the situation calls for it, he recognizes being his father's son with absolute pride. He said he now realizes it's not about him, it's about what his father accomplished.

"Our job as his children and family members is to remember him and try to do work that, hopefully, he would be proud of, as well.

"So, there was a little bit of that kind of pressure at first, but my dad said many times that you have to be true to yourself and do things that you want to do.

"There will always be things you'll have to do because others want you to, but advocating or defending Inuit and making sure you're helping those who need the help are values that are very well known in Inuit cultures. "If you're comfortable with who you are, then the pressure is only what you put on yourself, and, like I tell my son, at the end of the day you have to be happy and satisfied with your efforts, and, if you can do that, then you must be doing something right."

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