Thanks to the Canadian Press for this article.
Inuit truth commission to investigate whether RCMP slaughtered sled dogs
An Inuit group is investigating for itself a long-standing accusation that RCMP officers slaughtered sled dogs in the 1950s and ’60s to force their owners to give up their traditional lifestyle.
“Once the truth commission has completed their work (we’ll) have a clearer picture of what actually happened,” Terry Audla of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association said Wednesday.
Many Inuit are convinced that up to 20,000 sled dogs were systematically killed by police officers and other white authority figures as people were moving off the land and into communities. It’s long been believed that the RCMP’s actions were part of a plan to keep Inuit in settlements – where they were easier to administer – by destroying their main form of transportation.
Much of the social dysfunction in Inuit communities today stems back to that time of transition, giving the sled dog issue tremendous emotional force in Nunavut and Arctic Quebec.
The RCMP completed its own review last fall in which it summarized 40,000 pages of documents and interviewed 200 former officers, government officials and northern residents. The review concluded that while many dogs were killed, it was always done for humanitarian, security, safety and health reasons.
But only a handful of Inuit elders co-operated with that study.
“We’re going to have a significant number of Inuit witnesses,” said Jim Igloliorte, a retired Inuk judge from Newfoundland, who has been named chief commissioner.
The three-member panel is likely to begin travelling to Nunavut communities by Christmas. Igloliorte said he hopes to have fieldwork completed within a year.
The $600,000 budget for the first year has been provided by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the organization that administers the Nunavut land claim.
The commission’s work will focus heavily on educating Inuit children about their past, he said.
“I’m going to ask the young people in the communities to come along and hear what their elders are saying.”