The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA), an organization representing the Inuit from the Baffin Region, High Arctic and Belcher Islands, is calling on Ottawa to follow the Quebec government’s example and acknowledge the damage done by the slaughter of sled dogs in the 1950s and 1960s.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s signing of an agreement on August 8 marked “an important step towards building a more meaningful relationship based on trust between Inuit communities and government in Nunavik,” QIA President Okalik Eegeesiak said in a media release on August 9, according to the Nunatsiaq News.
But, she added, it needs to go up even higher, to Ottawa. The Qikiqtani Truth Commission (QTC) investigated the sled dog slaughter and other community traumas suffered under government policy, releasing its findings at the end of 2010. That was about the same time as that of Jean-Jacques Croteau, the retired Quebecois Superior Court judge who was commissioned by the province to investigate and put the issue to rest. The agreement signed on August 8 flowed out of the latter report.
QIA said the federal government should acknowledge both the Croteau report and the findings of the QTC.
The wounds are still felt today, according to accounts in the Nunatsiaq News and the QTC report. People remembered seeing the dogs, their friends, being killed, and noting that after that they could not fish or hunt because they lacked transportation. They describe how, trapped in their communities, people turned to alcohol—and thus began a spiral of cultural degradation.
The plaque acknowledges all these wounds: “The Government of Québec acknowledges that the Nunavik Inuit community suffered from the impact of the slaughter of sled dogs during the 1950s and 1960s and that many people were affected. Since that time, our relations have improved such that a similar situation could not take place today. Consequently, Québec recognizes the Inuit people and their modern vision of the role of the Qimmiit (sled dogs).”
The QTC has laid out a plan for implementing the elements of its report and is looking for government response, the Nunatsiaq News reported.
“The Inuit truth must be acknowledged by the federal government before the healing can begin for our region,” Eegeesiak told the newspaper.