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Tootoo awarded Queen's Diamond Jubilee honour

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rankin Inlet's own Jordin (Kudluk) Tootoo has another addition to his growing list of accomplishments, and this one is as much about the person as his hockey success.

NNSL photo/graphic

Nunavut Commissioner Edna Elias and Jordin Tootoo display the photo of Jordin's grandfather Kudluk Tootoo receiving Queen Elizabeth II's 1953 Coronation Medal, in Rankin Inlet earlier this month. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

Tootoo was presented with Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Medal during a small, intimate gathering of family and friends on the morning of June 17 at the Siniktarvik Hotel in Rankin.

The medal marks the 60th anniversary of the Queen's reign.

Nunavut Commissioner Edna Elias presented the medal to Tootoo on behalf of Gov. Gen. David Johnston.

In making the presentation, Elias passed on a few words written by Johnston for the occasion.

"I thank you for your dedicated service to your peers, your community and to Canada," wrote Johnston.

"The contributions you have made are most commendable and deserve our praise and admiration.

"I wish to convey upon you the heartfelt congratulations of your fellow Canadians, to which I add my own."

Elias also presented Tootoo with a framed photo of his grandfather, Kudluk Tootoo, receiving Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Medal from the RCMP in what was then known as Fort Churchill, Man.

Kudluk was employed by the military at the time, and was one of 20 Inuit announced as recipients of the Queen's Coronation Medal by former minister of Resources and Development Jean Lesage on Dec. 1, 1953.

Elias also touched upon Jordin's well-publicized battle with substance abuse during the ceremony.

She said people shouldn't overlook the fact it took a great deal of courage for Jordin to tackle the problem.

"It takes a real man to accept he has a substance problem, and an even bigger man to do something about it," Elias told the gathering.

The award came as a total surprise to Jordin.

Jordin said the medal is a great honour for him and the entire territory of Nunavut.

He said he thought he was just going out for a bit of breakfast and thanked everyone - with tongue planted firmly in cheek - for keeping the secret.

"I don't really know what to say about receiving an honour like this," said Jordin.

"I'd like to thank everyone for coming out and sharing this with me, because if it wasn't for the support I received from you guys I wouldn't be where I am today.

"I'd especially like to thank my mom and dad for helping me get here."

Jordin said he's always looked at the youth of Nunavut as its future.

He said he hopes he sets a good example and appreciates everyone who's helped him along his journey, including the commissioner.

"I really want to thank Edna (Elias) for recognizing me in this manner.

"We've been on a couple of tours together and had some great times.

"She was, pretty much, my mom on the road, and always kept me in line and didn't take any crap from me.

"I'll make sure I share this with everyone."

One of Jordin's closest friends since childhood, Troy Aksalnik, was among those at the ceremony.

Aksalnik said he knew about the award for about four days before the ceremony, and was tempted to let his best friend know about it.

"Even though I knew he was getting the medal, I felt proud of him when he was accepting it," said Aksalnik.

"I was with Jordin every day after I found out, and I thought about telling him a couple of times, but I thought no, I can't tell him because I was asked to keep it a secret.

"It's good for the whole community when Jordin gets recognized for things.

"It shows all he's done for people, and to overcome adversity and stuff, so it sends a positive message that if he can do it, anybody can."

Pujjuut Kusugak is another close friend of Jordin's, since their youth, who attended the ceremony.

Kusugak said he was really, really proud of "Jor" during the ceremony.

He said Jordin turned his life around and never forgets who stood behind him.

"He mentions a lot that his turnaround and success has a lot to do with the support he receives from Rankin, family members and friends," said Kusugak.

"So, it was really a proud moment for him to be recognized in this manner.

"I knew about it for a few days, but I wasn't tempted to tell Jordin because Dorothy (Tootoo) and Bernadette (Dean) both asked me to keep it quiet.

"I didn't say a word because I didn't want to ruin it for him and, from the looks of it, he had no idea it was coming."

Kusugak said once the ceremony concluded, he and Jordin had a chance to chat about things for awhile.

He said Jordin told him he was blown away by the honour.

"He told me being presented with this award was 'pretty amazing,' and that about sums it up."

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