Grieving mother: Iqaluit tragedy affects whole territory
“We knew of the violence long ago”
(updated June 10, 11:35 a.m.)
Micah Arreak of Igloolik saw her daughter Sula Enuaraq and two granddaughters only weeks ago while visiting Iqaluit.
Arreak didn’t know then that visit would be the last time they would see each other.
Enuaraq, 29, and her two daughters Alexandra, 7, and Aliyah, 2, were found dead in their Iqaluit home June 7.
Enuaraq’s husband, Sylvain Degrasse, was found dead in the community’s cemetery earlier the same day with a rifle across his chest.
Police are saying little about the tragedy except that they are treating their deaths as a homicide.
But as family members begin to speak publicly about the deaths, an image has emerged of a violent home life which Enuaraq wanted to escape.
“It’s unbearable,” Arreak said in a phone interview from Igloolik. “If I knew how short their lives would be, I would have been closer to them.”
Arreak only learned about her daughter’s death from a message posted on Enuaraq’s facebook page, after the RCMP had trouble locating some next of kin.
Arreak called her daughter Sula a “likeable” and “upright” person, who was a loving and dedicated mother.
She said Enuaraq first moved to Iqaluit in the 1990s to study at Inuksuk High School.
From there, Enuaraq studied midwifery in Iqaluit at Arctic College, although she never practiced.
Instead, she worked as assistant cook at the Baffin Correctional Centre, where her mother says she used her culinary talents to cook “for hundreds of people every day.”
Enuaraq started dating Degrasse about 15 years ago, Arreak said.
Arreak said Degrasse seemed to be a good father to his two girls – affectionately known as Arnainnu and Poppy – along with his three other children from a previous relationship.
“He showed them affection,” she said. “But he was a hard person to get close to.”
But “everything seemed fine” with the family when Arreak visited them in May, while she was in Iqaluit for medical treatment.
Now, she says, she’s at a loss to explain what happened June 7.
But she is more forthcoming in a message posted on her facebook wall written to her daughter.
“We knew of the violence long ago,” Arreak wrote. “[A friend] was concerned for her safety [and] said he may…do the things he did to [you] Sula.”
Arreak also expresses regret that she didn’t take the young girls home with her during her last visit to Iqaluit.
In another facebook message to friends and family, Enuaraq’s sister, Jolene Arreak, said her sister is now at peace.
“I’m happy you will never ever be brought down again, nor ever feel sad and scared,” Jolene posted June 8. “No more pain, ever again. I knew you were tired of it all, now you can rest.”
The women’s mother says she takes solace in the fact that Enuaraq and her daughters are at peace together.
“My daughter was tough as nails, she would have protected her children to death,” Arreak said. “They’ve always been together and they’ll always be together.”
Arreak said that Enuaraq and the two girls will eventually be laid to rest in Pond Inlet, where much of her immediate family is based.
But that funeral service will have to wait until autopsies are done on all four deceased persons, which will take place in Ottawa.
First Air will pay to fly the bodies to Pond Inlet, she said.
While Arreak mourns the loss of family members, she also calls it a tragedy that “affects the whole territory.”
She said Enuaraq and her little girls were well-liked in the community – at their school, daycare and place of work.
“I send my condolences to people in the community as well,” she said. “Children shouldn’t have to hear about these tragedies.”