Bloc Québécois makes friends in Nunavik
Duceppe offers support for dog slaughter compensation
KUUJJUAQ — In its push to win an apology and compensation from the federal and provincial governments, Makivik Corporation wants to draw attention to the slaughter of Inuit sled dogs in the 1950s and ‘60s.
And Makivik is receiving the strongest support from an unlikely ally: the fiercely nationalistic Bloc Québécois party.
Gilles Duceppe, an MP and leader of the federal BQ party in Ottawa, was in Kuujjuaq last week to attend the première of Echo of the Last Howl, a film on the dog slaughters.
Duceppe, often mentioned as a possible future premier of Quebec, promised he will show the film on Parliament Hill and ask the standing committee on Indian and Northern Affairs to call a public inquiry into the killing of Inuit dogs so many years ago.
“There will be an inquiry to know what exactly happened and why it happened and who decided for [that] to happen,” Duceppe told the audience gathered for the film’s première. “We have to shed light on that horrible situation. I’m just telling you to keep on the fight. I’m telling you that we’ll always be beside you, supporting your fight.”
Duceppe said he was most affected by a portion of the film where a former dog team owner tells how his dogs were taken away before anyone had thought about how they would replace them.
“It’s fundamental, from one day to the next they couldn’t go fishing. They couldn’t go hunting… imagine if someone took away all the means of transport from one day to the next in a city. Imagine if we took away camels from the Bedouin or the Touaregs,” Duceppe said. “What would that do? It forces people to change their way of life, and those who were nomadic to become settled. That’s a major transformation in a society and no one worried about that at all.”
Duceppe said it is “unacceptable” that the reasons for killing the dogs have never been spelled out.
“It was taken by who knows why for who knows what reason with no concern about the consequences,” Duceppe said. “We must shed light on this. That’s why we must have an inquiry.”
But he didn’t want to speculate on the outcome of the inquiry.
“I don’t want to make any conclusions before an inquiry happens,” he said. “Otherwise people will say ‘why do an inquiry, you already have the answers?’ That wouldn’t be a very wise strategy.”
Joining ranks with the BQ doesn’t make Makivik executive members uneasy. Makivik’s president Pita Aatami, and treasurer Anthony Ittoshat each said they welcome Duceppe’s offer of assistance.
“If there’s someone who will listen, that’s good,” Ittoshat said. “Any kind of help is welcome.”
Backing up Makivik’s call for answers and action in Kuujjuaq were Thomasie Alikatukuk and Joshua Kango of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chairperson of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, as well as Michel Létourneau, who represents Nunavik in the provincial legislature, the Assemblé nationale, and Yvan Lévesque, the Bloc MP for Nunavik.
To shore up support, Makivik also invited media from northern and southern Canada to attend the film’s première.
But an article filed by a journalist from the Journal de Montréal focused more on the killing of dogs in Kuujjuaq last September after the body of a man was found mauled by dogs than on the dog slaughters of the past.
Aatami noted that when these dogs were killed, it was for a precise reason — and the decision came from the community.