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Honouring heroes
Commissioner Edna Elias presents bravery, youth achievement awards in Rankin

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It was a big night for seven recipients of the territory's commissioner awards in Rankin Inlet this past week.

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Nunavut Commissioner Edna Elias presents Joe Jr. Kaludjak with the Commissioner's Award for Bravery this past week for coming to the aid of a woman being chased by a polar bear in Rankin. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

MaryLou Angidlik received the Commissioner's Award for Youth Achievement for her school academic work in science, while Darlene Nilaulak, Kyra Nokkitok, Joe Jr. Kaludjak, Pelagie Nokkitok and Marvin Dion were all presented with the Commissioner's Award for Bravery.

Charles Schweder received the Commissioner's Award for Bravery posthumously.

A large gathering was on hand at the community hall for the presentation ceremonies, which featured a full colour guard provided by the 3019 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps of Rankin Inlet.

Nunavut Commissioner Edna Elias said travelling to the communities to present the commissioner's awards never gets old to her.

She said she loves to watch the emotions on the faces of the people gathered for the event when the details of each award are read, and the growing number of youths now being recognized for their accomplishments fills her heart with happiness.

"When I see the pride in the faces of the people who receive these awards - and their families and friends looking on - it makes me feel honoured to be able to recognize them, especially the younger ones," said Elias.

"There were one or two youths who received an award in Rankin who, I believe, I met when they were at Nunavut Sivuniksavut in Ottawa.

"So, to then be able to present them with a commissioner's award in their home community makes it extra special for me."

Elias said many of the events she's attended during her time as commissioner have created memories that will last her a lifetime.

She said she likes to keep a journal on everything she does, including her many experiences when she goes to communities, and that often sparks fond memories.

"Sometimes I'll sit back and read my journal and I'll think, "Oh yeah, I remember that community visit and who I met.

"And, you know, it also makes people very happy to see their pictures go somewhere when they realize they're posted on our website."

The commissioner arrived in Rankin with her hair cut very short, having it almost shaved completely off the previous week in Ottawa during a fight-against-cancer fundraiser.

Elias is well-known for her efforts in fighting the deadly disease.

She was among a group of six Women in Action participants who took part in Steps of Hope by walking the 155 miles to Cambridge Bay from Umingmaktuuq in May 2012. The event was designed to promote health and wellness.

The proceeds from the walk were donated to the Alberta Cancer Foundation to support the Edmonton Cross Cancer Institute and breast cancer research.

Elias made a major announcement concerning her charity efforts at the conclusion of the Rankin ceremony.

She told the gathering she was going to work towards holding another walk against cancer in Rankin Inlet during the spring of 2014.

"I wanted to do the walk this year to keep it going but, it being the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year, it was just impossible for me to commit five or six months to plan it.

"There's so many logistics involved and I was flying from one community to the next during the year.

"I wouldn't have done it justice, to plan it haphazardly."

Elias plans to lead a group on the walk from Rankin Inlet to Whale Cove and then back to Rankin.

She said a number of local women expressed their desire to talk part during her visit to Rankin.

"Our first walk was something very special and I'd really like to see that take place in the Kivalliq.

"I have two more years to serve as commissioner, so I'd like to do the Kivalliq walk in 2014 and then with the women of the Baffin region the following year to complete the final step."

Elias announced the names of a few well-known women who plan to join the Kivalliq walk, including Kim Crocket of the Nunavut Literacy Council and broadcaster Shelagh Rogers.

A third name sent a murmur through the crowd. "Mrs. Stephen (Laureen) Harper came to Cambridge Bay with the prime minister this past year, shortly after our walk," said Elias.

"I met her again in Ottawa about two weeks ago and she reminded me she wants to do the Kivalliq walk.

"Having big names can help with certain areas of the walk, but, I really want to see women of any walk of life and of any age, as long as they're physically fit and think they can do it.

"We all pitch in to do the fundraising, and we can all do the walk."

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