Many in the know refer to Resolute’s Aziz (Ozzy) Kheraj as a true ‘legend’ in the Arctic’s world of business.
Kheraj, originally from Tanzania, East Africa, came to Canada in 1974 and, eventually, onto Nunavut (then still the NWT) in 1978.
Like so many other immigrants to the country, the successful businessman said he came to Canada to find work and a better way of life.
Kheraj, now 69, said he originally immigrated to Newfoundland and, after four-years there, he began looking for something else and ended-up in the NWT.
He said other than one month in Iqaluit, he and his family have spent their entire time in Nunavut in Resolute.
“The best way to describe what I’ve done over the years is that I make things happen,” said Kheraj with a good-natured laugh.
“We’ve had various company names over the years. First it was Kheraj Enterprises Ltd. And then we started a numbered company operating as South Camp Enterprises Ltd.”
Kheraj lists himself as semi-retired these days, then laughs and adds that means he only works 12 hours per day instead of his usual 18. He said over the years, his company has done construction, heavy-equipment rentals, earth work, built and owned hotels, and delivered the fuel contracts for Resolute and other communities among numerous other projects.
“Basically, if you want to spend a dollar, come see me.
“I love it here and have a large family of five kids, 14 grandkids and 15 great grandkids.”
There has been tragedy mixed in with Kheraj’s success over the years. On Aug. 20, 2011, First Air flight 6560 crashed during its approach to Resolute, claiming the lives of 12 on board.
Among those travelling on the ill-fated flight were Kheraj’s two granddaughters, Gabrielle Pelky, 7, and her sister, Cheyenne Eckalook, 6.
Pelky miraculously survived the crash along with two others, but Eckalook did not.
More than 20 years later Kheraj still deeply loves Resolute and the people who call the community home.
He said Resolute, over the years, has been a transportation hub similar to that of Rankin Inlet in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut.
“Stuff comes in and is then moved out. Grise Fiord is supplied out of here. Back in the old days the weather stations were supplied out of there, when they were building the Nanisivik Mine everything was migrating out of Resolute, so it was a hub. Now it’s just another town.
“The population now is about 190. We were up to about 250 a few years back. When I first came up it was around 450.
“I’m a workaholic. Full retirement is not for me. So, I guess, it’s still all work and no play.”
Kheraj has expanded his businesses into the Kivalliq communities of Rankin Inlet and Arviat, owning an auto-parts store and a garage in Rankin, as well as having heavy equipment there. The company has a garage in Arviat, as well as delivering the fuel contract in the community.
“The economy, I would say, is steady in Resolute. The military is up here and there’s government agencies up here, so it’s fairly stable.
“There’s new babies being born all the time but, as the new population grows, the older population migrates out to college and the larger centres like Iqaluit. But you can’t blame them for going where the work is.
“I’m still content here and I don’t see myself leaving unless, of course, the wife decides it’s time to leave and then we’ll leave.
“But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m still a happy camper here.”