An apology for
the Inuit five decades in the making
Condensed by Native Village
Quebec: The sobbing didn’t begin until they read the names
of the dead.
The group of Inuit residents had gathered in a small Inukjuak
gymnasium to listen to John Duncan, Canada's Indian Affairs
Minister. In the 1930s - 50s, Inuit families were
uprooted from their traditional homes, then shipped to
remote reaches of the Arctic. Duncan was here to offer a
“The government of Canada deeply regrets the mistakes and
broken promises of this dark chapter of our history and
apologizes for the High Arctic relocation having taken
place,” he told them.
Residents from two relocation communities,
Griese Fiord and Resolute Bay, politely applauded his apology,
but then began crying when Phoebe Atagootaaluk Aculiak stood
up and recited the names of those who had died in the
hundreds of years, Inuit have lived in and around the small
community of Inukjuak – the site of the 1922 film,
Nanook of the North. It was from here that the
RCMP persuaded Inuit families to board ships for a long
journey north to new lives in Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord.
The Inuit faced terrible hardships after the move. Ottawa
did not provide housing, leaving them to endure frigid
winters in Igloos and tents made of muskox hide. And
while their homelands had been stocked with caribou
and other game, the Inuit struggled to find food in the new
locations. Many did not survive the punishing winters.
The government then broke their promise to allow the Inuit
to return to their homelands
“They were practically prisoners in their own community,”
recalls John Amagoalik, who was 5 years old when his family
was shipped to Resolute Bay in 1953. “It was just the
most desolate place on earth,”
had claimed the moves had humane intentions and were done
with the consent of the Inuit, who hoped to improve their
say the Inuit were moved so the government could claim the
Arctic Islands as their own.
The truth about the relocation policy came to light in the
early 1990s during hearings by the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples. They found documents from the 1930s that
prove mineral claims in the High Arctic were part of the
They also found a federal press release issued at the time:
addition to placing the Eskimos in new regions where game is
more abundant and work more regular, there is the angle of
occupation of the country. To forestall any such future
claims, the Dominion is occupying the Arctic island to
within nearly 700 miles of the North Pole.”
The royal commission ultimately recommended that Ottawa
apologize and compensate Inuit affected by relocation.
of the relocatees communicate a deep sense of hurt and loss
as a result of the relocation,” the commission’s report
Mr. Duncan said that Ottawa has “no way to determine” the
true reasons for the relocation. He also stressed that the
Inuit communities today play a key role in Canada’s claims
of sovereignty in the Far North.
Inuit leader Mary Simon agreed, but said Canada needs to do
more than military exercises in the Arctic to assert
“They shouldn’t only worry about armies, they should also
worry about communities,” she said, listing the need for
better education and health-care services.
Mr. Duncan plans to visit Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord this
month to unveil monuments in honour of the relocated Inuit.
Cape Dorset, Baffin
Dundas Harbour, Devon
Central Keewatin -
Ennadai Lake, NU
Western Arctic region
(Port Harrison), Que.
King George Islands
Unknown, but 59 people
were later moved to
Henrik Lake, NU
Kuujjuaq (Fort Chimo),
Unknown, some families
(Port Harrison), Que.
Pond Inlet, Baffin
Fiord, Ellesmere Island
Resolute Bay (Qausuittuq),
54 people in 10 families
(32 to Grise Fiord, 22
to Resolute Bay)
Harrison), Que. Pond
Inlet, Baffin Island
Grise Fiord, Ellesmere
Island Resolute Bay (Qausuittuq),
38 people (6 families)
Nain, Nfld. North West
200 people (38 families)
Nueltin Lake, NU
Henrik Lake, NU
59 people (those moved
in 1951-52 are moved
Nain, Nfld Makkovik,
Nfld. North West River,
300 people (58 families)
Itivia, NU Whale Cove,
Whale Cove, NU
A few families
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