IQALUIT, Aug. 14, 2019 /CNW/ - Canada is facing the difficult parts of our shared history and acknowledging the hard truths of our past.
Today, in the spirit of Saimaqatigiingniq – a concept that means when past opponents come together, meet in the middle and are at peace with one another – the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations delivered an official apology on behalf of the Government of Canada to the Qikiqtani Inuit for the Government's actions in the Qikiqtani region between 1950 and 1975.
The Inuit-Crown relationship, for far too long, was filled with unfairness, inequality, and harmful treatment. During this period, Government policies included forced relocation and family separation of Qikiqtani Inuit, the killing of qimmiit (sled dogs), who were key to culture, survival and community health since time immemorial, and other assimilative actions. These actions have resulted in deep and lasting effects on Qikiqtani Inuit.
The Government acknowledges the important work of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission (QTC), an initiative led by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, in bringing this history to the forefront within their final report, Achieving Saimaqatigiingniq. The Government of Canada encourages all Canadians to read the findings of this report.
To move forward, Minister Bennett announced that Canada and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association have established a Memorandum of Understanding to work in partnership to build a long-term and sustainable response to the Qikiqtani Truth Commission's findings. This includes identified funding to implement programming for Qikiqtani Inuit to promote Inuit culture, healing and well-being for current and future generations.
Today's apology to the Qikitani Inuit was a collaborative effort between Inuit and the Crown, through partnerships with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) and the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee. It is also a reflection of the Government of Canada's firm commitment to renewing the Inuit-Crown relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.
"Canada made unilateral decisions about Inuit lives, assuming the Government knew what was best for Inuit. We have and will learn from these great errors. We are committed to ensuring our future is different from our past. We apologize to Qikiqtani Inuit for the deep and lasting effects this has had in their lives and in their communities. Today is the first step in moving forward on our journey of coming together in a place of Saimaqatigiingniq."
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P.
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
"This apology paves a path towards a shared vision of an inclusive Canada that celebrates the lives of all its citizens. The road towards reconciliation has not been easy – it has taken years, and the dedication of a generation of Inuit to secure an acknowledgement for the modern-day colonial policies and practices in the Qikiqtani region – in our Inuit nunangat. I am pleased that today we are not only accepting words of regret from the Government of Canada, but also concrete actions and investments that will help Inuit heal and secure a better future for generations to come."
President of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association
- The Government directed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to look into the allegations surrounding the killing of qimmiit, and report to Parliament.
- QIA felt the RCMP report contradicted Inuit accounts of this history.
- As the Government of Canada did not create a public inquiry, QIA established an independent truth commission to gather its own account of what happened to Qikiqtani Inuit between 1950 and 1975.
- Approximately 350 people testified through public hearings to uncover the truth about the Government of Canada's policies and practices.
- The Qikiqtani Truth Commission's Final Report, Achieving Saimaqatigiingniq, distills three years of interviews, testimony, and archival research about the experiences of Qikiqtani Inuit with modern day colonialism. The report includes 25 recommendations.
- The Qikiqtani Truth Commission released their final report in 2010 outlining the effects of government actions between 1950 and 1975.
- Government of Canada and QIA will continue to work together on next steps beyond the signed MOU.
- QTC Final Report: Achieving Saimaqatigiingniq
- Action on the Qikiqtani Truth Commission report
- Statement of Apology for Government of Canada actions between 1950 and 1975 in Qikiqtani Region
Qikiqtani Truth Commission
Work that led up to the creation of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission (QTC) began in 2000, when the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) and the Makivik Corporation of Nunavik called for the Government of Canada to launch a public inquiry into the killing of qimmiit (sled dogs).
In 2002, QIA established committees to examine issues related to social policy, language, the killing of qimmiit and relocations. In 2004, QIA began collecting testimony directly from Inuit to better understand how government policies affected them and their families, and profoundly and irreversibly altered their way of life.
The Government directed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to look into the allegations surrounding the killing of qimmiit, and report to Parliament. QIA was deeply disappointed with the RCMP report, which they felt contradicted and rejected Inuit accounts of this history.
As the Government of Canada did not create a public inquiry, in 2007 QIA established an independent truth commission to gather its own account of what happened to Qikiqtani Inuit between 1950 and 1975. The Qikiqtani Truth Commission was the first independent truth commission of its kind, led by an Indigenous organization.
Approximately 350 people testified through public hearings to uncover the truth about the Government of Canada's policies and practices.
The Qikiqtani Truth Commission's Final Report, Achieving Saimaqatigiingniq, distills three years of interviews, testimony, and archival research about the experiences of Qikiqtani Inuit with modern-day colonialism. The report includes 25 recommendations.
Between 1950 and 1975, the Government of Canada was the primary cause of change in the Qikiqtani Region. A few examples of the actions undertaken by the Government include:
- Forced relocation of Inuit, which resulted in family separation, loss of community and culture in order to create 13 permanent settlements, where Inuit were promised a "better life" that did not materialize.
- Promises of basic housing and essential services were often unfulfilled, and houses that were built were completely unsuitable for arctic conditions.
- Forcing Inuit children to attend residential schools and colonial institutions where English was the only language used, causing many Inuit to lose their ability to speak Inuktitut, resulting in the loss of culture and traditions and family connections. Parents were told they would lose their family allowance, which had become essential to survival in settlements, if children did not attend school.
- Killing of qimmiit, stripping Inuit of the basic tools needed for travel and the procurement of food. Given the critical role of qimmiit to Inuit, this policy had a significant negative impact on those affected, including creating food insecurity in the Arctic.
- These policies resulted in irreparable harm and intergeneration trauma that endures today among Qikiqtani Inuit
For a synopsis of the report, see "Action of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission" report on the QIA website www.qia.ca, http://www.qia.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/QIA-QTC-English_FINAL-LobbyingKit-2019-06-13_LOW.pdf
For full report findings, visit the QTC website: https://www.qtcommission.ca/en
The path forward
On August 14, 2019, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, on behalf of the Government of Canada, officially apologized to Qikiqtani Inuit. The apology is the culmination of work between Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the Government of Canada. The announcement included the a commitment to establish the Saimaqatigiingniq Fund, with financial support from the Government to help design and develop programming to be administered by QIA to promote Inuit culture, healing and well-being for current and future generations.
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SOURCE Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC)
For further information: media may contact: Matthew Dillon-Leitch, Director of Communications, Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, 819-997-0002; Sima Sahar Zerehi, Director of Communications, Qikiqtani Inuit Association, [email protected], 867-975-8413; Media Relations, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, 819-934-2302, [email protected]