Inuit special constables monument unveiled in Iqaluit

Monument dedicated to role Inuit played in helping RCMP survive in the Arctic

From left: Qikiqtani Inuit Association president Olayuk Akesuk, RCMP Chief Supt. Amanda Jones and artist Looty Pijamini stand in front of the monument commemorating Inuit special constables and their qimmiit. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

A monument commemorating the role Inuit special constables and their families played with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was unveiled in front of the force’s Iqaluit headquarters on Thursday.

The carving depicts Inuit special constable harnessing his qimmiit, an Inuit sled dog.

“It makes me want to cry,” Chief Supt. Amanda Jones, the commander of the RCMP’s Nunavut division. said of the ceremony.

Around 100 people attended, including a significant number of RCMP officers as well as politicians, including Premier P.J. Akeeagok and Senator Dennis Patterson.

This monument was made as part of the third recommendation in the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, which called on the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the RCMP should recognize the importance of Inuit special constables and their families to the work of the RCMP.

The commission was an inquiry established by QIA that documented the damaging actions and policies of the Canadian government and RCMP against Inuit in the Arctic from 1950 to 1975. One of the notable acts by RCMP was killing qimmiit, which deprived Inuit of their ability to travel.

“It destroyed a lifestyle,” Jones said, acknowledging the RCMP’s role in that chapter of history.

Special constables were Inuit who helped RCMP officers operate and survive in the North from 1936 until at least 1970, according to the Qikiqtani Truth Commission. They served as translators, taught RCMP officers how to travel by dogsled and helped them survive in the North by acts such as making an igloos when travelling.

QIA President Olayuk Akesuk said this ceremony was the result of the work done by QIA in establishing the Qikiqtani Truth Commission in 2007.

“It is a great day for us to start our vision going forward in Baffin and throughout Nunavut,” Akesuk said.

Akesuk said he wants to see continued work on improving the relationship between RCMP and Inuit.

The monument of a special constable harnessing a qimmiit. Pijamini said the motivation for this design was how often he and his father harnessed their sled dogs. (Photo by David Lochead)

“It’s extremely important that we recognize our special constables because without them the RCMP wouldn’t be here in the Arctic,” Jones said.

She added that this monument has been worked on for the last two years.

Last year, former MLAs David Qamaniq and Emiliano Qirngnuq called for special constables’ roles to return to the RCMP, as smaller communities can be as much as 95 per cent Inuit.

Jones said the RCMP is looking at special or community constables options for the future, but that decision is not her organization’s alone.

“That’s something we have to discuss with the Government of Nunavut on how they want their policing to look like in their communities,” Jones said.

The carvers of the sculpture are well-known Inuit artists Looty Pijamini and Paul Malliki. Pijamini has had his work shown internationally while Malliki has made carvings for former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien.

Pijamini, 68, said the motivation for carving this sculpture was how often he and his father harnessed sled dogs for patrols or hunts when he was around 13.

He added that he is relieved the monument is complete.

“I feel great.”

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(22) Comments:

  1. Posted by amai? on

    When did someone very special name themselves president?

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    • Posted by Taa! on

      He can’t name himself President. It was a board of directors decision, the remainder of the term is too short for an election. I doubt he has a personal mandate for Inuit.

    • Posted by Uvanga on

      It’s in the By-law of QIA that the Vice President if for any reason the President steps down he becomes the President for the remainder of the term.

  2. Posted by Innuapik on

    Realize back then with our brothers south of 60. The indians dene..cree. mik macs and other nations like am an inuk from the nation of INUITS which is the country NUNAVUT.

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  3. Posted by Why gn on

    Why isn’t the gn want special constables if the rcmp wants them?

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  4. Posted by Iqaluitmut on

    Take it down break it up the RCMP shot my parents dogs under the house my mom was 5 year old girl at the time shame for putting that up fkers.

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  5. Posted by 1984 on

    The “Dog Slaughters” were a northern Quebec event. It didn’t happen in Nunavut.
    We don’t achieve reconciliation by rewriting or distorting history all over again.
    Read the Qikiqtani Truth Commission reports instead of distorting what you think is in them.

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    • Posted by Nunavut, Too on

      The slaughter happened in Nunavut, too.

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      • Posted by LTR on

        From the article you, yourself linked.

        “Inuit travel by dog team, and the commission investigated whether there was a “dog slaughter” conspiracy in order to restrict the movement of Inuit. 

        It found there was no conspiracy, but the dramatic decline in qimmiit numbers “has become a flashpoint in Inuit memories: of the changes imposed on their lives by outsiders; and of the challenges to their … identity as hunters and providers,” according to a summary of the report. ”

        Yes, dogs were slaughtered. Because the Inuit way of life changed. Snowmobiles took over.

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  6. Posted by Why on

    For the cost of this monument I wonder how many children could have been fed. Seeing Looty’s work though is amazing!

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  7. Posted by Shameful on

    Typical of Jones. Went about this on her own. Sought advice from nobody. Any other carving would have been more appropriate. The sled dog conjures up so many emotion. So many positive but also disgust and hatred over a needless and insensitive slaughter. A stain on history now permanently reminds us.

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    • Posted by Southerner in the North on

      The RCMP didn’t do this alone. It was a joint project with QIA, as indicated in the article.

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    • Posted by Snowl on

      This was a joint project with QIA and the artists themselves decided what the content would be.

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  8. Posted by Paul on

    Thank you for your work! I apologize for the classless commenters above.

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    • Posted by Classless Paul on

      Dogs, The RCMP and the slaughter are very triggering experiences. Count yourself lucky not to have been witness.
      Nice stone work, but somebody didn’t think this through.

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      • Posted by The Old Mapper on

        Very triggering. I was a witness. Some of these personal opinions are valid despite the very brave and historic work of our Special Inuit and past and present members.

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  9. Posted by Snowl on

    A beautiful monument and I am so glad that they are recognizing the impact on the dog slaughter! We have seen the RCMP go from slaughtering sled dogs to denying it to begrudgingly acknowledging it to posting this constant reminder in front of the Capital’s detachment.

    A small step forward but a step in the right direction nonetheless! And such beautiful work by Looty and Paul – thank you!!

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  10. Posted by Me on

    They got the nerve to put up a statue, it should be brought down. What a shameful thing to have up here

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  11. Posted by Wiseowl on

    Word on the street has this project at $300,000. Reconciliation is about recognizing the views of others, accepting past mistakes, and moving forward in harmony. How will the permanent monument reminder of the “slaughter of sled dogs” at our Capital’s Detachment bring peace to future generations, including current and future RCMP members who work like “dogs” to keep Nunavummiut safe – none of which had anything to do with the past. Nothing. Why not recognize and move forward in harmony and get past this. RCMP brass should have seriously thought this through. I cringe when I go past detachment barracks.

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    • Posted by Holocaust on

      Much like Auschwitz, it’s not something to be forgotten. It’s a reminder that people have been wronged and that we can do better.

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  12. Posted by Thomas Melanson on

    People give your head a shake. This is a good thing. Stop living in the past. Move on….

Comments are closed.