Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic March 07, 2010 - 12:30 pm

Judge: Quebec, Ottawa owe apology, compensation for Nunavik Inuit dog-killings

Croteau finds about 1,000 dogs were killed, affecting 75 owners

A dog team departs a Nunavik community, in an undated file photo from the 1950s. (FILE PHOTO)
A dog team departs a Nunavik community, in an undated file photo from the 1950s. (FILE PHOTO)

Jean-Jacques Croteau, a retired Quebec superior court judge, recommends that the governments of Quebec and Canada owe an apology plus compensation to the Inuit of Nunavik for the killing of sled dogs between 1950 and 1970.

Croteau’s final, French-language report on the alleged slaughter of Inuit sled dogs from 1950 to 1970 in Nunavik is now in the hands of Pierre Corbeil, the provincial native affairs minister, and Pita Aatami , the president of Makivik Corp..

Croteau was mandated in 2007 by Quebec to look into the issue. He delivered his final report to Corbeil and Aatami on March 3.

The federal and provincial governments owe compensation and an apology to the Inuit of Nunavik, Croteau said in his report.

He said the whole of Nunavik society suffered damaging consequences from the actions, attitudes and mistakes of bureaucrats, agents and representatives of the two governments, who killed at least 1,000 dogs in Nunavik during the 1950s and 1960s.

And Croteau said he trusts that Ottawa and Quebec will make amends.

“They will settle with the representatives of Makivik,” Croteau said.

After an amount for compensation is settled on and paid, Croteau said, the money should be divided up among non-profit Inuit corporations to:

• Organize dog sled races like the annual Ivakkak dog sled race in Nunavik;

• Promote the creation of Inuit art and its sale; and,

• Promote the teaching and use of Inuttitut and of Inuit syllabics throughout Nunavik.

Makivik’s board will meet March 16 in Quebec to consider the 163-page report, obtained by Nunatsiaq News, which goes into exhaustive detail.

In his 22-page interim report on allegations concerning the slaughter of sled dogs, which was released last year, Croteau concluded there was no systematic elimination of sled dogs during the 1950s and 60s in Nunavik.

In that interim report, Croteau made no recommendations.

Both the interim and final reports looked at all possible information regarding the sled dog killings, including a 2005 brief that Makivik submitted to Quebec and the federal government, personal testimonies from Inuit and non-Inuit, the RCMP’s final report from 2006, legislation regarding loose dogs and the 2005 Makivik-produced video “Echo of the Last Howl.”

In the film, Aatami said the slaughter of Inuit dogs “reminded us of the wrongdoing to the Japanese” during World War II.

Then, Canadian residents and citizens of Japanese descent were declared “enemy aliens” and taken to internment camps for the duration of the war.

All of their property and belongings were sold, without the owners’ consent. Towards the end of the war, the Japanese were given the option for “dispersal” to places and towns east of the Rocky Mountains, or “repatriation” to Japan.

On Sept. 22, 1988, the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement was signed, and in the House of Commons, then-prime minister Brian Mulroney acknowledged the government’s wrongful actions.

Ottawa also offered individual and community compensation.

A similar kind of deal could conceivably result from Croteau’s report, which connects sled dog killings to government policies for Inuit relocation and the schooling for Inuit children.

These policies contributed to concentration of Inuit into settlements, the spread of canine diseases and the increased number of loose and often vicious dogs roaming around, the report says.

Government officials tried to solve the problem of the dogs, which they had created, without consulting Inuit, and by resorting to police operations and trying to enforce the law with a heavy hand, Croteau found.

They did not help Inuit who were abandoned without their dogs and other material resources, leaving them depressed and vulnerable, Croteau says.

The report includes testimony from elders revealing how Inuit and Qallunaat failed to communicate.

Inuit were told to chain their dogs, but they couldn’t buy collars or chains at the Hudson Bay Co., so their dogs ate through the handmade leather ties which some made to comply with the demands.

Croteau said the demand to chain dogs seemed to be “a cultural shock.”

“For many Inuit, tradition couldn’t be changed. If it was modified, this meant it was lost,” he said.

According to testimony in the report, many Inuit didn’t understand why they had to tie up their dogs or even why they were killed, but as one man said, “it was hard to try and argue.”

Dogs were shot and even gassed.

”The dog would be down there and the truck that is running and would just fall asleep. I would always say this is just like Germany, gas chamber, this is really what happened,” said a Kuujjuaq man quoted in the report.

Quebec police and other parties killed more than 1,000 sled dogs, Croteau said, and neither Quebec nor Canada did anything to help the 75 sled dog owners and their families.

Croteau said that in the fall of 1958, Canada, given its fiduciary responsibility for Inuit, should have intervened because the interests and wellbeing of Inuit were at risk.

But Canada did not act then or later when Quebec agents continued to kill sled dogs and misapply an agricultural law on tying up loose dogs to justify the killing of sled dogs and then left Inuit alone to deal with the loss of their means of transportation, Croteau said.

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