For nearly six decades, the Southway Inn was a home away from home for Inuit visiting Ottawa.

Before it closed in 2015, the inn stood at the corner of Bank Street and Hunt Club Road, its Nunavut flag welcoming weary travelers who'd just stepped off planes at the nearby Ottawa airport.

Today, a sculpture commemorating that history is being unveiled at the site of the former inn, now a retirement community.

"There was a comfort — not just in the hotel — but also around the hotel, whether they were going shopping across the street, whether they were visiting with friends," said John Walsh, a Carleton University professor who spearheaded the sculpture project.

"The Southway went out of its way to make people feel welcome," Walsh told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. "The place, itself, over time, just became familiar. Even before people got there, they knew about the Southway."

Sculpture depicts traditional sled, non-traditional cargo

Nunavut residents have often frequented Ottawa for vacations, shopping trips and to visit relatives seeking medical treatment or requiring long-term care. 

'[The Southway was] kind of like a marker, like an inukshuk along their journey.' - Inuk filmmaker Mosha Folger

The Southway Inn, which opened in 1958, became a common meeting spot for northerners.

"[It was] kind of like a marker, like an inukshuk along their journey," said Mosha Folger, an Inuk filmmaker currently shooting a documentary about the hotel.

Couzyn van Heuvelen sculpture Southway Inn inuit ottawa sept. 7 2017

This sculpture by artist Couzyn van Heuvelen will be unveiled Thursday at the site of the former Southway Inn. (

The new sculpture by Inuk artist Couzyn van Heuvelen depicts a qamutik — a traditional sled pulled by dogs over snow and ice — carrying non-traditional cargo.

"It has that traditional qamutik feel, but then there's suitcases and duffel bags on the back. So it kind of touches both the modern and the traditional," Folger told Ottawa Morning in an interview Thursday.

"I really want the Inuit community in Ottawa to appreciate it, to recognize that it's a marker for them, for me, for us."

'People can think about their own journeys'

The sculpture also comes with a plaque explaining its significance, which Walsh hopes will instill "empathy" in those who stop to read it.

"People can think about their own journeys, [being] lucky to find those waystations, those places that — even for a day, even for a few days, even for a week, for good or for bad — you can find a little temporary home."

The unveiling takes place Thursday at 4 p.m. outside what's now the Waterford Retirement Community.