Inuit leader wants apology for dog deaths

A Quebec Inuit leader says he hopes the provincial and federal governments will apologize for the slaughter of more than 1,000 sled dogs more than half a century ago.

A Quebec Inuit leader wants the provincial and federal governments to apologize for the slaughter of more than 1,000 sled dogs more than half a century ago.

Makivik Corp. president Pita Aatami made the remark after the release of a report from retired Quebec judge Jean-Jacques Croteau, who said Ottawa and Quebec owe the Inuit of northern Quebec — a territory now known as Nunavik — an apology and compensation for turning a blind eye to the mass dog deaths.

Croteau's final report, released last week, found that Quebec provincial police shot or gassed more than 1,000 sled dogs in most of Nunavik's 14 communities between 1950 and 1970, without considering their essential role in traditional Inuit lives.

Aatami told CBC News he will meet with federal Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl this week to discuss the report. As well, Makivik officials are making plans with the Quebec government to discuss Croteau's recommendations.

"What I've been searching for all these years is an apology," Aatami said Monday.

"I hope we're a step closer to getting that apology from the Quebec government, and hopefully the federal government, for the wrong that was done to the Inuit."

Livelihoods affected

Inuit have argued that their livelihoods were severely damaged after the sled dogs were killed, and some have accused governments of forcing families to move from their traditional settlements into western-style communities.

The Quebec government and Makivik Corp. jointly commissioned Croteau to investigate the dog slaughter claims after a 2006 RCMP report concluded there was no evidence of an organized mass slaughter.

The national police force's report said some dogs were lawfully destroyed for public health and safety reasons. In those cases, the dogs were diseased, hungry or dangerous, according to the report.

Croteau did not find evidence that the sled dogs were systematically destroyed, but said it was more likely the result of overzealous police actions.

Inuit in Nunavut have also alleged that RCMP officers slaughtered many sled dogs between 1950 and 1980.

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association recently held its own inquiry into the allegations, collecting anecdotes from Inuit in Baffin Island communities. The association's report is expected soon.

Makivik is a non-profit organization owned by Quebec's Inuit, with a mandate to  protect the integrity of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.