NunatuKavut mourns passing of Inuk Elder James G Learning
HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, LABRADOR, April 17, 2020 – NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) President Todd Russell today expressed deep sadness on behalf of himself, his family, the Governing Council and the people of NunatuKavut on the passing of James G Learning, a close friend and colleague. He issued the following message of condolence:
“We became colleagues in the early 1990’s when both of us served on the Board of Directors of what is now the NunatuKavut Community Council. After serving many years, Jim finished his last year on the Board in 2018. It was through our time together working and fighting for our Inuit rights, our lands and waters and for basic fairness and equality that we became friends. And it was as friends that I got to know Jim, his family and he shared in the life of mine. Through it all, it was easy to feel his love and passion for our people, the place he called home and his drive to affect positive change. For as long as I have known him, his passion, his yearning to “do what is right” spurred him to action. He could be a man of words yet he was always more a person who lived out those words. He not only advocated for his rights, just as importantly, he practiced them. He stood up for his beliefs and he had his freedom taken when jailed for doing just that.
He was stubborn (a necessary quality for the types of actions Jim was often involved in) and at times impatient. If he saw something that could be done and he could do it, he would. Think of the Labrador flag. When debate ensued in Confederation Building about flying the flag at Labrador’s border, what did Jim do? He cut the flagpole, drove hundreds of kilometers one way in his less than modern truck and, with a few bags of cement and a number of Labradorians who gathered to help, raised the Labrador flag. He did not wait for permission to do what was right. This was quintessiantial Jim. The flag represented Labrador unity and he so believed in and wanted Labrador to be united. That together we, all Labradorians, could realize a vision for the future.
Jim despised inequality and inequity and believed we all share a responsibility to fight for equality and justice. He lead by example and he took his responsibility seriously.
I can say with great confidence that Jim has made a difference for the better in his homeland. He has been an advocate, a fighter, a liberator, an environmentalist, a man connected to the land and water, a knowledge holder and an Elder. To me and many others, he was also a source of strength and encouragement. For all he was and all he did, we are forever thankful.
Jim lived a full and vibrant life where he gave of himself selflessly. And at the heart of it all it certainly was family. The pride and love in his kids and how he spoke of his daughters Carren and Jennifer and son Matthew, the grandkids whom he adorned and admired and how he wanted them to remain connected to this place. And, of course Roberta, his closest friend and confident who he shared so much with and to whom he showed such respect.
Jim Learning was always a good traveller, just like his Inuit ancestors. I am certain that has not changed on this, his latest journey. In the words of another Labradorian, Jim has left beautiful “trails to remember.” I shall miss him deeply as shall many and all of Labrador will miss a true and loyal servant.
Nakummek, Jim, Nakummek.”