Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik April 04, 2018 - 11:30 am

How the MMIWG inquiry brought clarity to one Nunavik mother

"For the first time, I felt, I’m not alone. I felt lighter"

SARAH ROGERS
Jeannie Sappa, bottom left, is pictured with her late daughter Alacie, top left, and other family members. Alacie died in October 2017. (HANDOUT PHOTO)
Jeannie Sappa, bottom left, is pictured with her late daughter Alacie, top left, and other family members. Alacie died in October 2017. (HANDOUT PHOTO)

Alacie Inukpuk isn’t missing and wasn’t murdered, but she’s gone.

And while her mother grieves her daughter’s loss and wants justice, Jeannie Sappa says she can at least understand why.

That’s in part thanks to the hundreds of testimonies, her own included, that made it to the national inquiry looking into the stories behind Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Sappa’s 11-year-old daughter Alacie went missing in the Nunavik community of Umiujaq sometime between Oct. 23 and Oct. 24, 2017. On Oct. 28, the girl’s body was discovered on the tundra outside the village.

Alacie died of hypothermia, but she had been drinking alcohol at the time she went missing.

Sappa has spent the last few months asking questions. The most pressing of them: who gave an 11-year-old girl alcohol to drink?

An investigation into Alacie’s death remains open, but the Sûreté du Québec says there does not appear to be any criminal element.

The criminal element is there, Sappa said, but it’s much harder to trace.

When the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls hosted hearings in Montreal last month, Sappa, who is being treated for cancer in Montreal, requested a week-long break from chemotherapy to attend the hearings.

“I just had to go and attend and listen, to make sense about it and see if connects to my daughter’s story,” she said.

“When I was listening, it all connected. Everything I heard, I could relate to.”

What she heard was a shared experience of dispossession and suffering. A colonial policy that triggered loss, the effect of which has rippled through several generations.

Sappa’s own story begins with her grandparents, originally from Inukjuak, who were asked by the federal government to relocate to Grise Fiord in the 1950s. When they refused to go, they ended up in the Belcher Islands.

That’s when Sappa’s grandmother contracted tuberculosis and was sent south for treatment. The family was then relocated a second time to Kuujjuaraapik.

“A lot of things have happened,” she said, noting her mother’s generation was heavily influenced by alcohol and violence. “One thing after another led to loss.”

Jeannie’s own childhood home was an alcoholic one. She married at 18 and lived in a violent relationship for many decades until she finally left her husband.

The national inquiry’s mandate is to look into the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Sappa gave a private statement to the inquiry March 14, detailing her life and that of her 11-year-old daughter. The testimony took six hours, and is one of hundreds that hasn’t been heard by the public.

“As an Inuk woman, it’s not easy,” she said.

“But for the first time, I felt, I’m not alone; I’m loved, I’m supported. I felt lighter.”

Since Alacie’s death, Sappa said her health has significantly declined. She is being treated for late-stage cancer and said the grief has taken a toll on her body.

“It seems like my life has been cut short,” she said. “But I want something good out of this.”

“I felt I took a step to stop a cycle of violence.”

Telling her story and that of her daughter to a public commission is one step.

Sappa said she is planning a project to celebrate Alacie’s memory, though she’s not ready to share details of it just yet.

Sappa said Kiluutaq school in Umiujaq has also launched an alcohol use awareness project for its students.

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(5) Comments:

#1. Posted by Courage & Strength on April 04, 2018

I salute your courage and strength. You are an inspiration.

#2. Posted by Hi Parsa Sappa on April 04, 2018

Paras Sappa, wherever you may be, we hope you’re doing okay.
Make sure to come visit your home Umiujaq soon. We miss you.

#3. Posted by Broken mother of 7 kids! on April 04, 2018

It’s all my fault my FAULT!for not being there for my kids,I wish the father did never hurt me but I really had to leave every one of my kids because nobody was willing to helpME WHEN I REALLY was desperate to get help but nothing had happened I’ve tried for good three months,YES it’s been 12 years that I have been away no more can ever go back even if want to because he still the same and never changed and what’s worst?my grown ups kids thinks I don’t love them anymore,they rather to be on his father’s side because he did good to them but not to me.it’s very hard for me to try to manage to live my own life sometimes I can’t do this anymore.💔

#4. Posted by Parsa on April 05, 2018

Parsa, we love you anyways. You tried very hard. It was too much for you alone.  Keep going on and don’t ever change.

Your kids will help you and support you because they will realize your struggles.  You are their mother and always will be.

#5. Posted by aboriginal supporter on April 05, 2018

Hi Parsa, You are strong, Keep it up. Lots of us women envy you. You are going through so much which most of us can’t go through. May you be supported by God who will always always be with you and gives you the strength to go through what ever you’re going through. You’ve taught so many to keep our strength, now is the time to care for yourself. Get your health back to keep strong.

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