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A 25-year break

Construction job turns into new business

Christine Kay
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Apr 14/03) - In 1977, Jacques Belleau decided to take a short break from his studies at the University of Laval in Quebec. It's a break that has lasted 25 years and counting.

He wanted to go somewhere different and found his destination when he picked up the newspaper. He saw an advertisement about construction work in the Eastern Arctic and sent off an application.

"I arrived in Iqaluit in the middle of a blizzard. The weather was pretty rough and I was only 23 years old," said Belleau.

His job was with a construction company from Quebec that was doing renovations on the Baffin Regional Hospital. Little did he know, it was at the hospital that he would met his future wife, Rebecca. In fact, Rebecca was one of the first people Belleau met.

Belleau said Iqaluit was a friendly, small community back in those days. He liked the fact that there was less of a gap between the haves and the have-nots. He liked that everyone -- the rich, the poor, the white, the Inuit -- lived in the same conditions as a community.

He also liked that there were so many opportunities. Belleau worked in construction for a couple of years and in 1979, he started a building materials company called Frobuild Construction.

"I was basically a guy with a toolbox. There was no place to buy supplies in town and that became a need," said Belleau.

Twenty-five years later, Belleau is still in Iqaluit and is still selling construction materials.

He's travelled to every community in Nunavut and has made lots of friends all over the territory.

He is happily married and has two daughters. Both of his children are in Quebec now, doing what he never did. They are at the University of Laval completing degrees in tourism development and international studies and language.

Belleau said the most enjoyable part of his time in the Arctic has been spent out on the land with his family.

"If you don't spend time outside of Iqaluit, you haven't seen the Arctic. This place, Iqaluit, is just a work camp," he explained.

Belleau said he looks forward to the day he can retire and spend even more of his time fishing and hunting on the land.