Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut September 12, 2018 - 9:20 am

Inuit org wants RCMP to acknowledge historical wrongdoings

“We ask that it be done quickly before more records and more memories are lost”

Hagar Idlout-Sudlovenick and Inukshuk Aksalnik of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association gave evidence at a hearing held by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Iqaluit this week. QIA called on the RCMP to acknowledge its role in historical injustices to Inuit, including allegations that members slaughtered sled dogs and forced sexual favours from Inuit women. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)
Hagar Idlout-Sudlovenick and Inukshuk Aksalnik of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association gave evidence at a hearing held by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Iqaluit this week. QIA called on the RCMP to acknowledge its role in historical injustices to Inuit, including allegations that members slaughtered sled dogs and forced sexual favours from Inuit women. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)

(Updated, 12:10 p.m.)

In traditional Inuit society, sometimes couples would share domestic life with friends, Inuit witnesses told the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Iqaluit this week.

When a man was away on a hunting trip, he might ask a friend to take care of his wife, romantically, sexually, emotionally, as a means of survival. There would be an agreement between all parties, the witnesses said.

But when non-Inuit RCMP members arrived in the North in the 1950s, they may have seen these arrangements and assumed they did not have to ask for the consent of Inuit women.

“In this situation it was different, particularly because of the power imbalance,” Inukshuk Aksalnik, the Qikiqtani Truth Commission coordinator with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, told commissioners on Tuesday morning.

The theme of this week’s hearings at the Frobisher Inn is the socio-economic, health and wellness impacts of colonial violence.

The RCMP has never properly acknowledged the historical violence perpetrated by its members in what is now Nunavut, Aksalnik said.

“The force has never looked into its history in a comprehensive way,” she said. “It has not tried to understand why Indigenous peoples in particular are exhausted by the RCMP’s repeated promises to do better. Many scholars and consultants have produced valuable studies, but the RCMP itself has not done the work.”

She continued to say that the QIA “would respectfully request that the inquiry into MMIWG consider asking the RCMP to examine the history of the force’s actions with Indigenous women and girls in collaboration with Indigenous scholars.”

“We would also ask that it be done quickly, before more records and more memories are lost,” Aksalnik said.

At Monday’s hearing, and continuing into Tuesday, the commission heard historical allegations about RCMP officers raping and otherwise sexually and emotionally exploiting Inuit women.

They also heard about the social issues that followed these alleged acts.

Hagar Idlout-Sudlovenick, the QIA’s director of social policy, also said the RCMP routinely slaughtered sled dogs, and that this contributed to Inuit becoming dependent on the federal government.

“Without a means to hunt, Inuit also became dependent on inadequate social assistance payments, store-bought food that was nutritionally poor and void of cultural meaning,” she said.

As well, for Inuit, a man’s sense of masculinity was directly related to the amount and health of sled dogs he raised, said Idlout-Sudlovenick.

On Tuesday morning, the commissioners heard allegations that RCMP officers impregnated Inuit women while their Inuit husbands were on hunting trips.

They also heard allegations of forced sexual favours and of young men taking advantage of their position of authority.

One account shared at the hearing on Tuesday was of a girl who said, “I have an RCMP father. I am different from my sister. I am an illegitimate child and it’s embarrassing. When I started getting older I was very agitated by it.”

The Inuit who spoke to the truth commission had said that that they believed the government and the RCMP were aware of some of these acts of violence.

Aksalnik said the truth commission does not believe there was a deliberate conspiracy.

However, she said that the policies and culture of the federal government and the RCMP harmed Inuit communities, leaving long-lasting intergenerational trauma in its wake.

Aksalnik said the truth commission’s archival research includes numerous instances that show the government was told about this violence.

“In 1959, RCMP officer Van Norman, who appears to be one of the most sensitive and helpful members in that time period, spoke about what he saw as the sexual and emotional exploitation of Inuit women by Distant Early Warning Line employees,” Aksalnik said.

The DEW line was a string of continental defence radar stations that ran from Alaska, across the north of Canada, to Greenland.

In a 1958 letter the truth commission shared at Monday’s hearing, an anonymous worker wrote to the minister of northern affairs, alleging that the station chief at Fox 3 DEW line station—at Dewar Lakes in central Baffin Island—used his authority to sexually exploit Inuit women.

The truth commission could not determine if any action was taken in either instance.

Since 2010, the QIA has been waiting for an acknowledgement and an apology from the Government of Canada.

And the police were the muscle behind the power of the federal government, Aksalnik said. These past wrongdoings have strained the relationship between Inuit and the force ever since, she said.

One of the recommendations flowing from the truth commission’s report is that the Government of Canada formally acknowledge that the levels of suicide, addiction, incarceration and social dysfunction found in the territory are symptoms of intergenerational trauma from historical government policies.

“The RCMP did not bring justice to the North, it was already there,” Idlout-Sudlovenick said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the truth commission heard reports of almost 350 allegations of sexual abuse. In fact, that was the total number of witnesses that the commission heard from.

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(18) Comments:

#1. Posted by Jack on September 12, 2018

It’s always difficult for Canada to acknowledge any wrong doings, a lot of excuses come out, it was long time ago, we weren’t around and did not do it, it was a different time, things were done differently back than to today, on and on. Full of excuses.

I’m sure there will be a lot of excuses for this one too.

#2. Posted by Southern Whiteman, Ottawa. on September 12, 2018

I was a government worker in Baffin Island at this time, I am now 78.
Yes it is true there were some bad white men, but their were also bad
Inuit men who would “pimp” their wives and daughters for alcohol and
tobacco. No matter what we told them they would still do it.
Why do some Inuit people of today talk as if their elders were useless
and subservient ?
To me and my friends they were the kings ( and queens ) of their land.

#3. Posted by Jack on September 12, 2018

My point proven. Things will not change for a long time with this type a attitude.

#4. Posted by Newfie Person on September 12, 2018

I was up there too, but maybe 5 years later. Frobisher Bay it was.
I remember some Inuit who were police, or schoolteachers used to
be very racial towards other Inuit who had a more primitive way of
life. No one mentions this. Too much fear.
Inquiries should be open to all people in Canada.
Regardless of race, some people are good, some people are bad…

#5. Posted by Deborah Kigjugalik Webster on September 12, 2018

In this time of reconciliation in our country, the RCMP must acknowledge their wrong-doings to Inuit women in what is now Nunavut.

In Whaling and Eskimos: Hudson Bay 1860-1915, W. Gillies Ross wrote, “The extent which whalemen and government personnel fathered children by Eskimo women is revealed by a record of births at or near Cape Fullerton from 1889 to 1911 (Comer 1889-1909, 1908-1911). In this period, of 46 children reported born, almost half were sired by whalemen, personnel of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, and crew members of the government steamer Neptune”(p.122).

As an Inuk anthropologist working on a research project about Special Constables in Nunavut (Facebook@InuitSpecialConstables), I have interviewed individuals including family members and some widows of special constables who have stated that RCMP members have exploited them by sending their husband out on patrol, so they could do just that!

Deborah Kigjugalik Webster

#6. Posted by Evelyn Thordarson on September 12, 2018

In order to move forward we have to learn to forgive. Those RCMP members are long passed on let the past go if you don’t then you will never have peace in your lives.Not everyone was good examples on either side.But the sled dog incident has since been reconciled by the Federal Government and the RCMP..

#7. Posted by Joe at Kitikmeot. on September 12, 2018

I was told that a lot of Inuit women, in the old days, would go with
different men because they had a fear of inbred children.
  Many men of the HBC, as it used to be, were very happy with their
Inuit wives.
At a community meeting here a few months ago, a women complained
about construction workers fathering children. My uncle stood up and
said to the women, ” What about your stepson ? He has fathered about
20 children. What do you have to say about that ? “.
The lady ran out of the hall.
So D. K. Webster what do you have to say? Quit the racism!

#8. Posted by Crocodile Tears, Rankin Inlet. on September 12, 2018

You mean well, I am sure of that, but there are too many advisors,
off all races making to much money for that to happen.
The more that is spent on this, the less for good programmes for
native people.
I agree with your comments about letting things go. It works.

#9. Posted by Jana on September 13, 2018

Why not the people of the North apologize to all the injured and killed RCMP members who risked their lives everyday to save your asses from domestic and spousal abuse.  They leave heir families down south to protect you and yes there maybe some bad apples but there is a lot more bad apples in your group.  The most ungrateful people are from the North.  Too much self entitlement.  Now let’s see how many of you whine about what I said even though it’s the truth.

#10. Posted by Concerned Observer on September 13, 2018

I think #10 makes an excellent point. We have seen two RCMP officers in our territory murdered because they were trying to protect women in our communities from being beaten and abused by their partners.

Constable Jurgen Seewald was murdered by a wife beater who was threatening his girfiriend. Constable Douglas Scott who was only 20 years old was murdered by a wife beater and Constable Scott was trying to protect the murderer’s Inuk girlfriend.

When women and children are beaten, abused and tortured by men in their communities, the RCMP are the only people they can turn to. When women are beaten up on our communities, the community turns their back on them.

Those hypocritical organizations like QIA and NTI turn their backs on them too. They do nothing to help Inuit who are abused in their communities, probably because there are so many abusers who work for these organizations.

This is why Inuit women flee to the cities to escape violence in communities, because everyone refuses to help them. They flee to the cities and sometimes end up missing and murdered. Shame on QIA and NTI for doing nothing to help them. Shame on them!

#11. Posted by Jack on September 13, 2018

#10 I think you need to learn some history of this north, once you do you will realize why there is so much social problems up here. Instead of pointing fingers today at people that need help.

White this inquiry we go back to where the problem started and learn about it and find ways to make the fixes needed, but unfortunately it’s complicated and we have to fight for these improvements and try and make you understand at the same time. It’s a uphill battle while going through all these social issues at the same time.

#12. Posted by Peter on September 13, 2018

#7 we cannot learn from our mistakes if we do not learn from the past, we cannot move forward. Lest we forget.

#13. Posted by iWonder on September 13, 2018

#1 Jack, how would you like to see ‘Canada’ deal with this (for that matter, what is ‘Canada’ in the terms you’ve used: the state, the people of Canada)?

Please let us know how do you envision that?

#14. Posted by Thank you for service. Iqaluit. on September 13, 2018

# 9 & #10,
Very good comments.
There are a lot of Nunavut people who appreciate the work of the
RCMP and the services provided by the people of Canada.
Crooks don’t realize if it wasn’t for the RCMP, vigilantes would have
stood them up against a wall years ago.
This happened a lot before the RCMP came north.

#15. Posted by Two Sides on September 13, 2018

Yes, some men think it is okay to beat their wives or girlfriends.  They are cavemen, who should stay in caves!

RCMP are called then, to sort things out and may have to get tough with the guy hurting his partner.

The Question is - why do men up here think they can hurt their Partners?  Why take all your problems out on your wife or girlfriend?  That’s crazy behaviour.

Nobody should ever hurt their wife or girlfriend. Never!

It makes you less of a man, looking stupid and unsafe around other people.

Don’t put down the RCMP when YOU are doing something that is wrong!

#16. Posted by Why on September 13, 2018

Why is it they are always asking for an apology. how many apologies do they need. so much money being spent on getting apologies after apologies.

#17. Posted by So say all of us ( Kitikmeot ) on September 14, 2018

My father was an RCMP officer, after I was born he wanted to take my
mum and me too Saskatchewan where his father had a large grocery
This was 1961, my mums parents wanted her to stay with them.
At Xmas he always sent us money and a nice letter. I met him many
times, no problems at all.
And that is all, such is destiny.

#18. Posted by Why? on September 24, 2018

Why is it that non indigenous people feel threatened by this? Why is it that they do not understand why there should be an apology? It really boggles my mind that some non indigenous person has this type of mindset.

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