The death of an Iqaluit mother and her two young daughters this week may have been the climax of a troubled relationship, according to the slain woman's mother.
The bodies of Vivian Sula Enuaraq, 29, and her daughters Alexandra, 7, and Aliyah Degrasse, 2, were discovered in an Iqaluit house late Tuesday afternoon, in a case that has shocked and saddened people in Nunavut's capital city.
"She was a wonderful girl, a very good girl, an upstanding girl," Micah Arreak, Enuaraq's mother, told CBC News on Thursday from Igloolik, Nunavut.
"She was a mother. Her priorities were that she be a good mother and she look after her children well."
The discovery came less than an hour after the girls' father, Sylvain Degrasse, 44, was found dead at the local cemetery. A firearm that was seen near the man's body was a rifle, RCMP confirmed on Thursday.
Incident being treated as homicide
Sgt. Jimmy Akavak could not confirm that Degrasse and Enuaraq were in a common-law relationship, but he did confirm that the two girls were the couple's children.
Akavak gave few other details about the deaths on Thursday. He said investigators are treating the case as a homicide, but they are not searching for any suspects.
"At this point, we feel that all people deceased are involved are connected," Akavak told reporters in Iqaluit.
"We can't at this point release whether it's a murder-suicide, but we do think it's an isolated incident and [there is] no reason for alarm for the public."
Forensic experts have been called in from Winnipeg to help with the investigation. Akavak said the bodies will be sent to Ottawa for autopsy by the end of this week, and results could take weeks.
Akavak would not say if there was any history of violence between Degrasse and Enuaraq, saying investigators are "just concentrating on the crime scenes at this point."
Was in deteriorating relationship, said mother
Arreak said Enuaraq was caught in a deteriorating relationship, but it was difficult to reach out to her daughter because they live in different communities. Igloolik is about 855 kilometres northwest of Iqaluit.
The four deaths have come as a shock to people in Iqaluit, a small city where many of its 7,000 residents know each other.
The Nunavut government has compiled a list of support services for people who have been affected by the deaths.
Crisis counselling is being offered at the Social Services office in Grinnell Place, and people can call the Kamatsiaqtut Nunavut Helpline at (867) 979-3333 during evenings.
Officials are urging people to speak to their families and trusted clergy during times of crisis.
Grief counsellors offered support on Wednesday to students and staff at Joamie Ilinniarvik elementary school, where one of the four victims was a Grade 2 student.
"I think it escalated over time. I was warned a few times that this may happen," Arreak said.
"I asked her if there's something I could do to help. From a remote community, it was very hard to cope with."
Reported rates of violence against Inuit women are 14 times higher than the national average, according to Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, a national women's organization.
"It was our culture not to dwell on it," Pauktuutit president Elisapee Sheutiapik said in Iqaluit.
"But you know what? Our rates of violence, our rates of suicide are far too high to avoid."
Sheutiapik said this week's deaths illustrates the need to address the mental health and well-being of all Inuit.
Meanwhile, Arreak said she wants her daughter and granddaughters to be buried far away from Iqaluit, in their home community of Pond Inlet.
Family members plan to hold a fundraiser to help pay for the costs of airline tickets to Pond Inlet, Arreak said, adding that a memorial may be held at a later date.