(March 8, 2019 – Iqaluit, Nunavut) Nunavut Inuit leaders accept Canada’s apology for its role in the forced treatment of Nunavut Inuit during the tuberculosis epidemic from the 1940s to the 1960s. The apology was attended by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated President Aluki Kotierk, Qikiqtani Inuit Association President PJ Akeeagok, Kivalliq Inuit Association President David Ningeongan and Kitikmeot Inuit Association Vice-President Charlie Lyall.
Thousands of Inuit were forcibly taken from their families and environment for tuberculosis (TB) treatment in sanitoriums where they were provided medical care in a new language, often without interpretation. Approximately 1,450 Inuit from across Inuit Nunangat did not return home and many families are still looking for answers. Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) has raised the issue with the federal government since 2007.
During the apology, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Inuit Tapariit Kanatami President Natan Obed announced the Nanilavut initiative to assist families across the Inuit Nunangat locate loved ones who were taken from their communities and never returned.
Beginning today, NTI will assist Inuit who wish to search archived records to locate the graves of their family members. Once located, NTI will also arrange travel for two family members and grave markers. Mental health resources have been arranged through health centres, Ilisaqsivik, Pulaarvik Kablu and Cambridge Bay Wellness Centre. Nunavut Inuit may contact Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated toll-free at (888) 646-0006 or in Iqaluit at 975-4900 to begin the process.
“So many of us have stories of loved ones being taken away, never to return. Inuit have been seeking answers since the 1970s and did not give up hope. We have worked together to get to this point. We will continue to take our steps to benefit the health and wellbeing of our communities,” said Kivalliq Inuit Association President David Ningeongan.
“While this is Canadian history, for many in Nunavut this is a lived experience. It is encouraging that so many people will be able to receive support to search for loved ones and have the opportunity to heal,” said Charlie Lyall, Vice-President Kitikmeot Inuit Association.
“This apology acknowledges the way in which Inuit, within our living history, were taken away without their understanding of where they were going or when and if they would come back. It was an uncertain and disruptive period for Inuit families compounded by language and cultural barriers. Today, through the Nanilavut database, we are in a position to help Inuit find information about family members that never returned home. Further, we must continue our joint commitment to eradicate TB by achieving equitable social determinants of health,” said Aluki Kotierk, President of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.
For further information:
Interim-Director of Communications
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated