Daughter. Friend. Wildlife biologist. Singer-songwriter. Born Jan. 22, 1963, in Munich, Germany; died Aug. 29, 2016, in Ottawa, of ovarian cancer; age 53.
Siu-Ling was 11 months old when our family emigrated from Germany to Canada and settled in Montreal. We continued speaking German with Siu-Ling, and Dutch between ourselves. But once, when my husband and I were sharing a private conversation in Dutch, we were astounded when our two-year-old retorted in perfect Dutch: "I know what you said!" Siu-Ling's ability to observe and absorb at that tender age later defined her as an adult.
Growing up in Montreal and Ottawa, Siu-Ling graduated from the University of Waterloo with an MSc in biology. She fell in love with the Arctic when she travelled north as a research assistant in university. In 1998, Siu-Ling moved to Nunavut and made it her home after years of working on Northern projects, including the Northern Contaminants Program, which led to the drafting of international protocols for persistent organic pollutants.
Siu-Ling never lost sight of the fact that she was living in the land of Inuit. This understanding defined her work and she ensured that the perspective of Inuit in wildlife management, at all levels, was heard. She embraced Inuit life, learned Inuktitut to better communicate with elders and hunters, and started a team of Inuit dogs which she bred, raised and trained for almost two decades. Siu-Ling was a well-respected sled-dog driver.
In April, 2003, Siu-Ling came back to Ottawa for cancer treatment but was able to return North before the end of that year.
In 2009, to celebrate six cancer-free years, Siu-Ling led an expedition with three friends along the east coast of Baffin Island. With help from Inuit hunters, she planned and executed the logistics needed to safely navigate challenging Arctic terrain and placement of food caches along the 1,010-kilometre route between Iqaluit and Pond Inlet. During this trip, her friends discovered the polite and gentle person they knew could swear like a sailor when disciplining her dogs.
Siu-Ling made extraordinary efforts to cultivate deep and meaningful friendships, and didn't just flit in and out of people's lives. Known as "the wise one," friends turned to her when faced with a problem or life-altering decision.
When cancer reappeared in 2013, she endured all kinds of treatments and clinical trials for 30 months. Known for her strength and resilience, Siu-Ling still managed to go skiing in the Rockies between treatments, play hockey, take a 15,000-kilometre road trip to see the Redwood forest in California and enjoyed more dog sledding in the Arctic.
When news of her imminent passing spread among friends and family, close to 200 travelled to Ottawa from all across Canada, Nevada, the United Kingdom and Holland to show their love, support and respect.
To our great surprise, she recorded a CD of songs titled To Those Who Would Show Kindness. It was recorded after much encouragement from her friends who worked night and day to mix and produce the album before her death. As Rob Aubé, friend, bass player and project manager of the album, said, "It was a community effort and a testament to her friendship." Siu-Ling asked that proceeds of the album fund youth mental-health initiatives in Nunavut.
Siu-Ling died in her parent's home in Ottawa with her family and her dog by her side. Her indomitable spirit lives on in her beautiful music and the powerful images of the lyrics she wrote.
Kim Han is Siu-Ling's mother.