Trauma flowing from Nunavik dog slaughters slow to heal
"We apologized for those mistakes”
The mayor of Kangiqsualujjuaq says she welcomed provincial and regional officials to her community Aug. 8 to receive the long-awaited recognition of the dog killings that took place across Nunavik in the 1950s and 60s.
In an interview with Nunatsiaq News, Kitty Annanack remembered how, as a young girl, she would watch her father go hunting with his dog sled team.
Sometimes her mother would take a few dogs to collect wood on the land.
“And then we lost our dogs,” Annanack recalled. “We didn’t even think of fighting back.”
Then, many people in the region could no longer hunt, and many more turned to alcohol, she said.
So when Quebec premier Jean Charest and his native affairs minister, Geoff Kelley, arrived Aug. 8 to acknowledge the suffering the killings had created for Inuit families, Annanack called it a “relief.”
“It was emotional for me because I witnessed this happen, and now my parents have passed,” she said. “I was trying to be strong. We cannot go back.”
Recognition was key to helping nurture a respectful partnership between Nunavik and Quebec as they move ahead on future projects, Kelley said in an Aug. 9 interview.
The dog slaughter was an issue raised by Makivik Corp. and the Kativik Regional Government during the first discussions with the province on Plan Nord, he said.
“It seems like such a long time ago, but the memories are still there,” Kelley said. “There was a high level of misunderstanding and miscommunication, and not much respect for the Inuit culture.”
The intentions of provincial officials were good, although they went about it the wrong way, he said.
When asked if Quebec actually offered an apology to the people of Nunavik for its part in the killings — one of the recommendations made by the 2010 report that looked into the issue — Kelley said “the premier used the word apology when he spoke.”
“But it was a recognition of errors in the past,” Kelley said of the Aug. 8 event. “And we apologized for those mistakes.”
That recognition also come with $3 million in compensation, provided to Makivik as well as commemorative plaques for each Nunavik community.
The trilingual plaque, titled “The Nunavik Qimmiit,” reads “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).”
Annanack said her community would find a public place to mount the plaque, “so people can see it.”
In the report prepared on the killings, retired Quebec judge Jean-Jacques Croteau found that Quebec provincial police officers killed more than 1,000 dogs, mostly in the 1960s, without considering the role the animals played to the Inuit way of life.
Quebec provincial police replaced the RCMP as the police force in Nunavik in 1960.
In 2006, the RCMP produced their own report into allegations of dog killings in northern communities, concluding that police destroyed the dogs for heath and safety reasons.
But Ottawa has yet to officially respond to Croteau’s report.