Skip to main content

Eric Ayalik Okalitana Pelly

Son, big smiler, loyal friend, proud Inuk. Born on June 12, 1995, in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut; died on Dec. 30, 2014, in Ottawa, of sudden cardiac arrhythmia, aged 19.

My wife and I will never forget meeting Eric for the first time – or how quickly we fell in love with the little boy and his remarkable smile. Laurie and I have worked in Nunavut for most of our careers (she as in-house counsel for the land-claims organization, I as a writer for publications and cultural projects focused on Inuit heritage), and at the time we were living in his home town, Cambridge Bay.

Eric was just over two years old when social services staff brought him to our house. He spent most of the next four years in our foster care and we adopted him, our only child, when he was 6. His smile endured as he grew up, becoming his hallmark. As one of his hockey coaches said, "The only thing faster than his feet was his smile."

Story continues below advertisement

Eric was passionate about hockey. His skill at the game and his vital role on a team helped boost his self-esteem. From the age of 9, after we moved "south," his Ottawa teammates offered acceptance and admiration that he often found missing elsewhere.

He was admirably calm under pressure. I saw it countless times: at sea on a sailboat, face-to-face with a grizzly in the barren lands, and on the ice. As an older teenager, his hockey team made it to Ottawa's city championship final and played overtime to a tie; the game was to be decided by a shoot out and Eric went immediately to his coach, saying, "Let me shoot first. I will score, and it will take the pressure off the shooters after me." He did score, but the team lost.

Eric loved to travel. He sailed to Venezuela twice (and lost his first tooth at sea the first time). When he was 6, we took him from Nunavut to Japan, where he ushered Princess Takamado around an exhibition of northern art (which I had a hand in organizing). Through family trips and youth-abroad programs, he visited a dozen countries in Europe. Best of all, for him and for us, we did several long canoe trips together in the Arctic. By the time he was 12, he had paddled on the Thelon, Clarke, Elk, Back, Consul and Simpson, some of the great rivers of the Barrens. He was proud to be from Nunavut and comfortable in the northern wilderness.

Like so many aboriginal children, Eric suffered the consequences of Canada's past treatment of native peoples. The impact descends through the generations, resulting in challenges to self-esteem and identity. It is difficult to believe in your own worth when your parents and grandparents have been undervalued, as Canadians are now beginning to realize and understand. To help other Inuit youth achieve the success for which Eric worked so hard, we have established a charitable foundation in his memory, the Ayalik Fund. It will help some Nunavut youths participate in confidence-building programs, such as Outward Bound and Encounters With Canada, which made such a difference for Eric.

At 19, Eric had graduated from high school, had a wonderful girlfriend, was proudly working in his first full-time job as a surveyor's assistant, and enjoying the taste of success. He was a fine young man, with a promising future, tragically unfulfilled.

David Pelly is Eric's adoptive father.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter