Northerner remembers Queen’s kindness on Arctic tour in Canada

A 2019 file photo of Queen Elizabeth in London. The monarch died at age 96 in Balmoral Castle on September 8. (Tolga Akmen – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Joy Suluk, a collector of Queen Elizabeth II memorabilia in Canada’s Arctic territory of Nunavut, says she was still trying to process the news of the monarch’s passing on Thursday.

“I’m heartbroken,” Suluk said when reached by phone at her home in the community of Arviat. “It’s so sad. We’re all just shocked.”

Suluk said her admiration of the Queen goes back to childhood and led her to start her eventual collection.

“She became the Queen the year I was born and I always loved her since I was a little girl going to federal day school ” Suluk said.

Suluk eventually got to meet her idol when Queen Elizabeth travelled to the Arctic Canadian community of Rankin Inlet in 1994.

“She was passing through looking at the crafts we had on display. She stopped by and we talked about what I had made. I had made a beaded coat for my youngest daughter and quilt and they were bought by the Royal Family.”

Suluk says she can’t remember in detail what the Queen said to her about her work, other than that she used the word “beautiful.”

A file photo of Joy Suluk with some of her Queen Elizabeth memorabilia. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

Commitment to service set her apart 

Suluk said the Queen’s commitment to service will be the most important part of her legacy.

“She did her public duty like I’ve never seen any leader do. She was calm, loyal to her subjects, loyal to the people in the Commonwealth. She never had a private life like we do and was always in the spotlight.

“She was a very strong lady.”

Governor General, Prime Minister offer condolences 

Buckingham Palace announced the Queen’s death Thursday, saying the monarch had died peacefully at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Earlier in the day, the palace had issued a statement saying doctors were concerned for her health. Members of the Royal Family spent the day gathering at Balmoral to be with her.

Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon, the royal representative in Canada, offered her condolences to Queen Elizabeth’s family.

In all, the Queen made almost two dozen trips to Canada during her reign.

 “Time and again, Her Majesty marked Canada’s modern history,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement. “Over the course of 70 years and twenty-three Royal Tours, Queen Elizabeth II saw this country from coast to coast to coast and was there for our major, historical milestones.”

Trudeau described the monarch as “constant presence” in Canadian’s lives.

Reuters reports that King Charles III will make a public address on Friday.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca 

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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