Apology for the Inuit High Arctic Relocation
August 18, 2010
Check against delivery
Elders, Inuit leaders, ladies and gentlemen, and especially those of you who were directly affected by the relocation; thank you for being here.
This is my first trip to the North as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and I am very honoured to be here for this historic event.
You may recall that my predecessor, Minister Strahl, also had his first trip as Minister to Nunavik when he attended the Katimajiit summit in Kuujjuaq almost exactly three years ago.
I am familiar with the North and I look forward to visiting the North regularly, and to working closely with Inuit communities and organizations during my mandate.
Over half a century has gone by since the relocation of Inuit from this community to the High Arctic. I am here on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Government of Canada, and all Canadians to offer an apology for these events.
Today's ceremony is an important step towards healing and reconciliation. Please accept the apology I am about to offer on behalf of all Canadians. I hope that it will form the basis of a strengthened relationship with the Government of Canada.
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.
We would like to express our deepest sorrow for the extreme hardship and suffering caused by the relocation. The families were separated from their home communities and extended families by more than a thousand kilometres. They were not provided with adequate shelter and supplies. They were not properly informed of how far away and how different from Inukjuak their new homes would be, and they were not aware that they would be separated into two communities once they arrived in the High Arctic. Moreover, the Government failed to act on its promise to return anyone that did not wish to stay in the High Arctic to their old homes.
The Government of Canada deeply regrets the mistakes and broken promises of this dark chapter of our history and apologizes for the High Arctic relocation having taken place. We would like to pay tribute to the relocatees for their perseverance and courage. Despite the suffering and hardship, the relocatees and their descendants were successful in building vibrant communities in Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay. The Government of Canada recognizes that these communities have contributed to a strong Canadian presence in the High Arctic.
The relocation of Inuit families to the High Arctic is a tragic chapter in Canada's history that we should not forget, but that we must acknowledge, learn from and teach our children. Acknowledging our shared history allows us to move forward in partnership and in a spirit of reconciliation. The Government of Canada and Inuit have accomplished many great things together, and all Canadians have benefitted from the contributions of Inuit to our culture and history. We must continue to strengthen our connections and deepen our understanding and respect. We must jointly build a stronger, healthier and more vibrant Inuit Nunangat and, in turn, build a stronger, healthier and more vibrant Canada.
The Government of Canada hopes that this apology will help heal the wounds caused by events that began nearly 60 years ago and turn the page on this sad chapter in Canada's history. May it strengthen the foundation upon which the Government of Canada and Inuit can build and help keep the True North Strong and Free.