Newly appointed Indian and Northern Affairs Minister John Duncan has issued a formal apology on behalf of Canada to the 19 Inuit families that were relocated to the Far North during the 1950s.
At the time, 19 families with 87 members were forcibly removed from their ancestral home at Inukjuak and moved to two communities in the High Arctic, now known as Resolute and Grise Fiord.
In his August 18 apology, Duncan admitted that not only were the families poorly prepared for extreme conditions of their new home but also for the sunless winters and summers without darkness. This was also compounded by the government’s failure to provide adequate shelter, supplies or information on how to hunt, fish or trap in a region that was dramatically different from their home.
Duncan’s speech also detailed how the Inuit were not informed about how they would be divided into two separate communities upon arrival in the High Arctic, nor how the government had reneged on a promise to return anyone who was unhappy with the relocation to their home community.
Referring to the Inuit as “human flagpoles,” Duncan also apologized for relocating the Inuit as a means of marking Canada’s sovereignty in the extreme north as at the time the US was looking to develop the area as a front in the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Though the Inuit received $10 million as a trust in compensation for the relocation in 1996, this was the first time that the federal government has formally apologized.