Montreal Inuit org wants apology from borough mayor

“I think the comments she made were too quick and two harsh.”

By SARAH ROGERS

The Association of Montreal Inuit (AMI) says the mayor of a Montreal borough should retract negative comments that she made recently about the Inuit community.

Following a public meeting of the Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension borough last week, the AMI’s Allison Irqumia told reporters that mayor Anie Samson owes Inuit an apology for her “harsh” reaction to news that a patient residence for Nunavik Inuit could soon occupy a vacant hospital in the neighbourhood.

“As a leader, it wasn’t appropriate to make a quick decision,” Irqumia told Nunatsiaq News. “I think the comments she made were too quick and two harsh.”

Irqumia is referring to comments Samson made in May that a renovated facility to house 150 Inuit patients and escorts at St. Denis and Faillon would attract “incivility” to a borough that already had its hands full of social problems.

Irqumia addressed the July 6 borough meeting beforehand, first in Inuttitut before switching to English and then French.

Irqumia offered the borough her organization’s services as a possible liaison between the Inuit community, the public and the different organizations involved.

Although Samson did not directly respond to the request, Irqumia says she left the meeting feeling it was “time to move on.”

“We were outraged when we first heard those comments,” she said. “Now we need to get past that and try and open avenues for both sides.”

That means working to moving the current Nunavik House to a new location as soon as possible, whether in Villeray or elsewhere.

But the AMI’s involvement will remain limited to being a “cultural window,” Irqumia said.

“Inuit have been wondering what AMI can do, but the answer is ‘nothing,’” she said. “We’re not part of this process.”

“But we’re available, and we’re glad to be there.”

Meanwhile, the Montreal organization has its own needs to address; AMI’s board of directors has been short members for close to a year now.

Two of seven board seats remain empty and that means the AMI can’t function as a complete organization, Irqumia said.

“Once we have a full board, we can implement some of our services properly,” she said; services which include helping connect new and long-time urban Inuit to community services as well as organizing feasts and other social events.

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