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People

Paul Okalik

Photograph: Hon. Paul Okalik

Source

Hon. Paul Okalik.

(1964 - )

Paul Okalik was born at Pangnirtung, Northwest Territories (N.W.T.), the youngest of ten children of Auyaluk, a hunter, and his wife. He received his early education at Pangnirtung, and the Iqaluit residential school. Okalik's teen years were marked by a combination of alcohol and crime (partway through grade ten, he was expelled from high school for drinking), and the suicide of an older brother when Okalik was 14. He served a three-month sentence for breaking and entering when he was 17. Upon his release, he took a welding course at Fort Smith, N.W.T. Later, he worked at Nanisivik Mine on Baffin Island.

It was not until he obtained a position as a researcher and negotiator with the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN) that he made the first steps towards changing his life. He earned praise from his TFN colleagues, and gained some much-needed confidence. His work led him to settle in Ottawa, but he returned to the North to enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in 1991.

Okalik's experience with the TFN encouraged him to resume his education. He enrolled at Carleton University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1995. He went on to enter the law school program at the University of Ottawa, obtaining his degree in 1997. He returned to Iqaluit, where he began articling at a local law firm.

It was while finishing these studies that Okalik came to believe that he could best help his fellow Inuit through politics. He decided to run for public office, winning a seat as the member for Iqaluit West in the elections for Nunavut's first legislative assembly. It was an eventful week for Okalik. Only three days before the election, he had been called to the bar of the Northwest Territories. His fellow legislators selected him as their premier on March 5, 1999. Currently, in addition to his responsibilities as premier, Okalik serves as the minister for executive and intergovernmental affairs.

Sources

Crompton, Liz. --  "Northerner of the Year : Paul Okalik". --  Up here. --  Vol. 15, no. 8 (Nov/Dec 2000). -- P. 22-27; 57.

"Paul Okalik : Premier of Nunavut" [online]. -- Contemporary Canadian biographies (June 1999) [Cited November 30, 2000]. -- Indexed on Canadian periodical index online website.

Participants : Honourable Paul Okalik, B.A., L.L.B., Nunavut [online]. -- Western Premiers' Conference '99. -- [Cited November 29, 2000]. -- Access [Website not currently available]: www.aeda.gov.ab.ca/premier/premconf99/participants_paulokalic.cfm