High Arctic relocation

High Arctic relocation

The High Arctic relocation of Inuit took place during the Cold War, when 87 people were moved to the High Arctic of Canada. "The High Arctic Relocation: A Report on the 1953-55 Relocation" by René Dussault and George Erasmus, produced by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, published by Canadian Government Publishing, 1994 (190 pages) [http://www.fedpubs.com/subject/aborig/arctic_reloc.htm] ] cite book|last=Porteous|first=John Douglas|coauthors=Smith, Sandra Eileen|title=Domicide: The Global Destruction of Home|publisher=McGill-Queen's Press|date=2001|pages=102-03 |isbn=9780773522589|url=http://books.google.ca/books?id=6t_KSirfEnsC&pg=PA103&dq=High+Arctic+relocation&lr=&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U1uYljO3npFHZB_oRhBrDOCNWN17Q#PPA102,M1]

The move

In August 1953, seven families from Inukjuak, northern Quebec (then known as Port Harrison) and three families from Pond Inlet (in the then Northwest Territories, now part of Nunavut) were transported to Grise Fiord on the southern tip of Ellesmere Island and to Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island. The families, who had been receiving welfare payments, were promised better living and hunting opportunities in new communities in the High Arctic.cite book|last=James |first=Matt| editor=Mark Gibney, Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann|chapter=Wrestling with the Past:Apologies, Quasi-Apologies and Non-Apologies in Canada|title=The Age of Apology|publisher=University of Pennsylvania Press|date=2008|pages=142-4|isbn=9780812240337|url=http://books.google.ca/books?id=pPXpiXQ45osC&pg=PA143&dq=High+Arctic+relocation&lr=&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U1DDRnEINkC7uDxLsOs695-MhhDdw#PPA143,M1] The methods of recruitment and the reasons for the relocations have been disputed. The government stated that volunteer families had agreed to participate in a program to reduce areas of perceived overpopulation and poor hunting in Northern Quebec, to reduce their dependency on welfare, and to resume a subsistence lifestyle.cite book|last=Damas|first=David|title=Arctic Migrants/Arctic Villagers: The Transformation of Inuit Settlement in the Central Arctic|publisher=McGill-Queen's Press|date=2004|pages=52-57|isbn=9780773524057|url=http://books.google.ca/books?id=3TZHXQaFk2IC&pg=RA1-PA52&dq=High+Arctic+relocation&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U3cos0KzJW12sNWI22wOdW1LHtFWg] In contrast, the Inuit reported that the relocations were forced and were motivated by a desire to reinforce Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic Archipelago by creating settlements in the area.cite book|last= Loukacheva |first=Natalia|title=The Arctic Promise: Legal and Political Autonomy of Greenland and Nunavut|publisher=University of Toronto Press|date=2007|pages=159|isbn= 9780802094865|url=http://books.google.ca/books?id=HzPzwrUYdgkC&pg=PA159&dq=High+Arctic+relocation&lr=&as_brr=3&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U06SshswZb6yJcu8rvedRIQwo1Iyw] cite book|last=Tester|first=Frank J.|coauthors=Kulchyski |others= Peter|title=Tammarniit (Mistakes): Inuit relocation in the eastern arctic 1939-63|publisher=UBC Press|location= Vancouver, BC|date=1994|pages=102-104|isbn=9780774804523|url=http://books.google.ca/books?id=HVf9N3jdsp4C&pg=PA401&dq=high+arctic+relocation&as_brr=3&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U3nPPvRMCsN3_S7Nsd49GJv2x5XeQ#PPA102,M1] The Inuit were taken on the Eastern Arctic Patrolship C.G.S. "C.D. Howe" to areas on Cornwallis and Ellesmere Islands (Resolute and Grise Fiord), both large barren islands in the hostile polar north.

They were left there without sufficient supplies and with no way to return. As they had been moved about 2000 km to a very different ecosystem, they were unfamiliar with the wildlife and had to adjust to weeks of 24 hour darkness during the winter, and 24 hour sunlight during the summer, something that does not occur in northern Quebec. They were told that they would be returned home after two years if they wished, but this offer was later withdrawn as it would damage Canada's claims to sovereignty in the area and the Inuit were forced to stay.Fact|date=September 2008 Eventually, the Inuit learned the local beluga whale migration routes and were able to survive in the area, hunting over a range of convert|18000|km2|abbr=on|0 each year [McGrath, Melanie. "The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic". Alfred A. Knopf, 2006 (268 pages) Hardcover: ISBN 0007157967 Paperback: ISBN 0007157975] . Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reports from the time stated that the two colonies were generally successful in terms of morale, housing, and subsistence living. When pressured, the federal government created a program to assist the Inuit to return to the south, and in 1989, 40 Inuit returned to their former communities, leading to a break up of families on generational lines, as younger community members often chose to remain in the High Arctic. Those that remain are described as being fiercely committed to their home.

Re-evaluation and justification

In 1990, the Canadian House of Commons standing committee on aboriginal affairs asked the government to apologize to the Inuit who had been moved to the high Arctic in 1953, to provide compensation to them, and to formally recognize the residents of Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord for their service to Canada sovereignty. In response, the government commissioned the "Hickling Report" which absolved them of wrongdoing, arguing that the Inuit had volunteered to be moved, and that they had been relocated due to the harsh social and economic conditions in Inukjuak. The report, written by a long-time government official, was strongly criticized by academics and the media.

In contrast, a Canadian Human Rights Commission report submitted in December 1991 argued that there was evidence that there were government concerns about Arctic sovereignty at the time of the relocations, and an understanding that the settlements would contribute to Canadian sovereignty, but that this was not the primary motivator in the move.A further report, written by Trent University professor Magnus Gunther, examined the various claims of academics disputing what had occurred during the relocations. It concluded that the government had acted with humane intentions, and as a result Tom Siddon, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, stated that it would be "inappropriate for the government to apologize" or provide compensation.

In 1994, the Canadian government held hearings to investigate the relocation program. The Inuit evidence given was that they had been forcibly relocated, while government officials argued that they had moved voluntarily. The official who had been in charge of the relocation suggested that witnesses had changed their stories in order to claim compensation, and that the move had been a success. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples called the relocation "one of the worst human rights violations in the history of Canada", and recommended compensation for the survivors. The federal government refused to apologize, but established a "Reconciliation Agreement" in March 1996, creating a $10 million CAD trust fund for relocated individuals and their families. The government admitted that the Inuit suffered "hardship, suffering and loss in the initial years of these relocations" but required recipients to "acknowledge that they understand that in planning the relocation, the government officials of the time were acting with honourable intentions in what was perceived to be in the best interests of the Inuit at that time.


Some of the Inuit who were transferred had been involved a generation before in the making of "Nanook of the North", the 1922 hit film, which presented itself as a documentary of Inuit life and culture. The pioneer of this technique, Robert J. Flaherty, made his name through the film, but he never acknowledged the illegitimate son he left behind, or attempted to help him or the community that had hosted him for two years, though he knew of the move. [McGrath, Melanie. "The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic". Alfred A. Knopf, 2006 (268 pages) Hardcover: ISBN 0007157967 Paperback: ISBN 0007157975]

ee also

*Human rights in Canada
*Territorial claims in the Arctic


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