Makivik, QIA team up to investigate dog slaughter
Organizations call for public inquiry, begin their own investigations
Inuit organizations in Nunavik and Baffin Island are at last investigating the mass slaughter of dogs that occurred in the regions in the late 1950s.
Makivik Corporation has completed 200 interviews as part of its information-gathering. It is also looking into making a documentary to be produced by the Taqramiut Nipingat Inc., the television broadcaster for Nunavik.
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association says it is preparing to start collecting information and evidence on the dog slaughter this fall, so that Baffin beneficiaries can get compensation. It is not just financial compensation they want — they also want a public apology.
The QIA board formed a dog slaughter committee at an executive meeting in Grise Fiord in April. It approved a budget of $30,000 to start collecting information and evidence to prove that the slaughter actually took place.
This information will eventually be brought to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and the Solicitor General.
Representatives from QIA will be going to South Baffin communities between September and November to interview people. After the information has been gathered, it will be organized and the accounts of witnesses will be further reviewed for more details.
Inuit from the Baffin, High Arctic, and Nunavik regions suffered slaughter of their dogs between 1950 and 1975.
“The only means to travel”
Akesuk Joamie, a resident of Iqaluit, had his own dog team when he landed in Apex in 1957. He said he and his father each had their own teams. In those days, the dogs could roam freely. It was in Apex that it first became mandatory for dogs to be tied up.
“When we started living in Apex, we were told that the dogs had to be tied up. Even when our dogs were tied up, they still got shot. Some that I heard about, others I saw with my own eyes,” Joamie said.
“The dogs were the only means to travel. I thought that this was supposed to happen, because the white man was intimidating. They knew everything and were domineering. I felt at the time that we couldn’t do anything.”
The situation was complicated by the fact that the Inuit were not given an explanation for the slaughter in their own language. “There were no interpreters in those days, it was never explained,” Joamie said.
QIA and Makivik have formed a partnership to deal with the matter. The presidents of both organizations have signed a joint letter to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs requesting that a public inquiry take place.
The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has not formally responded to the letter. According to Jocelyn Barrett, a lawyer for Makivik, the department has said there are no records of the slaughter and that there was no policy made to destroy dogs.
Makivik Corporation has interviewed at least 200 people who suffered through the slaughter themselves, in addition to witnesses and relatives of people who lost their dogs. This information has been translated to English.
The people of Nunavik have an ally in their Member of Parliament, Guy St. Julien, who has been vocal on the issue. Recently a petition was started in the communities, and Makivik is asking that the petitions be signed and sent to St. Julien’s office by Aug. 1.
Makivik has been asking for an inquiry, but if there are other ways of investigating the matter, such as using an independent investigator, they’re willing to look into that.
Because the slaughter took place 40 or 50 years ago, it is difficult to gather the information or evidence because there were no written records of the activities that took place.
In addition, the federal government is denying that the slaughter took place.
A former RCMP officer who witnessed the slaughter passed away recently in Kuujjuaq. Others who witnessed it are now elders, and some of them are passing away as well.