GJOA HAVEN, Nunavut – A member of Canada’s Arctic reserve force has died on a military exercise intended to monitor snow and ice conditions in the Northwest Passage.
Donald Anguyoak — a hockey coach, hunter and father — died Sunday in a snowmobile accident in Nunavut.
“It’s hard to believe he’s gone,” said Lydia Anguyoak, who was married to Donald for 20 years.
Anguyoak, 46, was a member of the Canadian Rangers, the largely aboriginal reserve force that works jointly with regular forces in the Arctic. He was taking part in Exercise Polar Passage, which began Feb. 9 and runs to March 3.
He was on duty, acting as head scout for other members of his patrol, when he died. He became the first Ranger to be killed on duty since 2005.
Polar Passage, now in its third year, brings Rangers from Gjoa Haven, Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay and Taloyoak together with federal scientists to gather information on a long stretch of the Northwest Passage. The Rangers are trained to use sampling kits and to measure snow and ice thickness, water temperature, salinity and plankton abundance.
There was no word on what led to the accident.
“There is no criminal investigation,” RCMP Cpl. Yvonne Niego said Tuesday. “The coroner’s office has taken over.”
The Army said in a statement that no other details would be released. A board of inquiry will be convened and is expected to report in a matter of weeks.
“A thorough investigation will be conducted to determine the cause and any factors that contributed to this accident,” said the military release.
Anguyoak was a father of four with a 19-month-old grandchild, said his widow.
“He was so proud of his granddaughter and his kids. He talked about them all the time and he loved us dearly.”
He worked as a caretaker at the local health centre, but his wife said his great love was being around children. He was an instructor in the Junior Canadian Rangers, a youth wing of the Rangers praised in the North for bringing a positive activity to young people and for providing a way to teach traditional land skills.
“He worked a lot with the kids,” she said. “He was really good with kids and he loved kids.”
Anguyoak was also a hockey coach for both children and women.
“He loved hockey. He was playing hockey since he was growing up.”
And when he wasn’t doing any of that, Anguyoak was on the land, hunting.
“He was a regular hunter. He loved to hunt for anything and loved it outdoors.”
Anguyoak also served a four-year term on Gjoa Haven’s hamlet council.
Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin, commander of the Army, said Anguyoak will be missed.
“We remember Donald for his passion about passing his knowledge and skills to the youth of Gjoa Haven through the Junior Canadian Ranger program,” Devlin said.
Members of the Gjoa Haven Rangers conduct sovereignty patrols and monitor the North Warning System, a joint U.S.-Canadian radar system for North American air defence.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement that the death is a reminder that the Rangers and other members of the Canadian Forces face real dangers as they safeguard Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.
“On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Cpl. Donald Anguyoak,” Harper said.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston and Liberal Leader Bob Rae also extended their condolences.
Gjoa Haven, a community of about 1,000 people, is on the south end of King William Island, which is just north of Canada’s Arctic mainland, west of Hudson Bay.
There are about 4,700 Canadian Rangers in 173 patrols in Canada. About 1,600 of them are located in 58 hamlets in the three northern territories.
— By Bob Weber in Edmonton