Backgrounder - Apology for Inuit High Arctic Relocation
In the 1950s, 19 Inukjuak (Quebec) Inuit families were relocated by the federal government to Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord in the High Arctic due to deteriorating traditional harvesting, health, and social conditions in Inukjuak. To help the Inukjuak families adjust to the more demanding conditions in the High Arctic, Canada also asked 3 families from Pond Inlet to relocate to Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord, as they were familiar with the conditions and could help Inuit from Inukjuak develop the skills for traditional harvesting in that environment.
The relocatees suffered significant hardship as a result of the relocations. Having been moved from an area of lush tundra to an Arctic desert, the families had to adapt to the constant darkness of the winter months and a terrain and climate that were much more severe than what they were accustomed to. The varieties and quantity of wildlife were more limited and temperatures were on average, 20 degrees colder than in their home community.
Due to poor planning and implementation of the move, the relocated families spent their first winter in the High Arctic in flimsy tents with inadequate food and supplies. The Government had promised that the relocatees could return to Inukjuak if they were not happy with their new homes. This promise was not honoured until many years later.
In March 1996, based on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1994) and other studies (Parliamentary Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs in 1990, Canadian Human Rights Commission in 1992, Hickling Report 1990, Gunther Report 1991), the Government of Canada entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Makivik Corporation. The MOA resulted in a $10-million tax-free capital transfer to a trust established on behalf of the High Arctic relocatees. In the MOA, the Government of Canada recognized that the relocatees encountered hardship because of government planning and implementation of the relocations and that the relocations contributed to a Canadian presence in the High Arctic. However, no formal apology was issued at that time.
On August 18th, 2010 the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, issued an apology to Inuit relocatees, their families, and all Inuit, for relocating Inuit families from Inukjuak and Pond Inlet to the High Arctic and for the hardship and suffering caused by the relocation.
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