QIA leader denounces RCMP dog report
There is no evidence of an RCMP plot to systematically kill Inuit sled dogs from the 1950s to 1970s, according to an interim report drafted by police and recently presented to a House of Commons standing committee.
The 25-page report acknowledges that RCMP did shoot sled dogs during those years.
“However, the destruction was undertaken for public health and safety reasons because malnourished, disease-ridden dogs posed a threat to residents of the northern communities,” the report reads.
It says no records could be found to suggest these killings were deliberately organized, either by the government or the RCMP.
Neither were there enough bullets to shoot the alleged number of dogs killed, according to records.
“The allegations of 20,000 sled dogs being systematically killed would have meant that an average of two teams of 10 sled dogs would have been destroyed every week for 20 years in a row,” the report says, pointing out no records could account for that much ammunition being shipped north to support such a cull.
The report goes on to describe positive interactions between RCMP and Inuit, such as when officers donated their Siberian huskies to Inuit who lost their dogs to canine distemper, a disease that was sweeping the North.
Representatives from the Qikiqtani Inuit Organization, which is conducting its own study on the dog slaughter issue, argue the report is full of holes.
“It’d be a sad day when I have to depend on the RCMP for my history. I have my elders for that,” said executive director Terry Audla.
Their research suggests there were “pockets of abuse” around the eastern arctic, with young RCMP mavericks at times getting carried away and killing dogs without good reason, or without communicating to Inuit why the dogs were shot, Audla said.
He questions the thoroughness of any review that depends on internal RCMP documents, written by and for police, which he says would tend to overlook abuse within the organization. “They’ve gone through filters,” he said.
Audla also doubts anyone’s ability to accurately track the number of dogs killed across a vast territory over the span of several decades.
What he does know is his organization has collected testimonials from about 200 elders, many of whom believe an RCMP-led dog slaughter robbed them of transportation and livelihood, forcing them to abandon their nomadic lifestyles and become dependent on government services.
“There are some people who still refuse to talk about it.”
Audla reiterated calls for the federal government to launch a judicial inquiry, as recommended by the House of Commons committee on aboriginal affairs and northern development.
The RCMP’s final report is due to be complete by May 2006.
QIA’s own report includes interviews with elders and information from archives in Yellowknife, Winnipeg and Ottawa. The report is currently being transcribed and translated, and should be complete in the next few months.