One year after Ottawa apology to High Arctic relocatees: memories endure
"Today's anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who were relocated"
RESOLUTE BAY — It’s been one year to the day since the federal government, on Aug. 18, 2010, apologized in Inukjuak for the relocation of Inuit families from Inukjuak and Pond Inlet to Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay in the 1950s.
In Inukjuak, the original home of most of the relocatees, John Duncan, minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, delivered an official apology from Canada to Inuit.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, we would like to offer a full and sincere apology to Inuit for the relocation of families from Inukjuak and Pond Inlet to Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay during the 1950s,” Duncan said.
Today Duncan said “the apology was an important step in the healing process for those affected by the relocations. As we move forward, it is important that we continue to remember and acknowledge the past. Today’s anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who were relocated and the hardships they faced.”
Nineteen Inuit families from Inukjuak and three families from Pond Inlet were relocated 1,200 km from their homes, into an unfamiliar, difficult environment, he said.
“Their perseverance enabled them to establish themselves in the High Arctic, despite conditions vastly different from those to which they were accustomed,” he said.
The delivery of the apology in Inukjuak was the first public event in which Duncan participated as INAC minister.
“Its first anniversary also allows me to reflect on all we have accomplished since then. Our government is committed to rebuilding and strengthening its ties with all Inuit communities and organizations. By working together, we can ensure that these communities are prosperous, healthy and vibrant,” Duncan said in an Aug 18 statement.
In Resolute Bay, the impact of the relocation remains vivid among two relocatees, Louisa Gillespie and her brother, Allie Salluviniq. They were only young children when they arrived at Cornwallis Island from Inukjuak, then known as Port Harrison.
Gillespie doesn’t remember life before arriving in Resolute Bay, although her brother says he retains some memories of the C.D. Howe.
A photo of the two and their two parents, Daniel and Sarah, hangs in the hamlet hall.
That brings back other memores of the hard life endured by the relocatees. That photo was taken on the day her mother was sent south for tuberculosis treatment, an absence that lasted for years, Gillespie said.
In that photo, Gillespie has a sad look on her small face — despite being told to smile, she remembers.
Now Gillespie is proud to pose in front of a monument to the relocatees, erected in front of the hamlet gymnasium that bears her father’s name.
Down by the beach a larger monument to the relocatees, unveiled last September stands nearby an excavated Thule site.
During this month’s Operation Nanook exercises, many of the Canadian Armed forces have visited the monument, reading the plaque and standing next to the soapstone figure.