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Inuit truth hearings about more than sled-dog deaths: commission head

As the Qikiqtani Truth Commission begins its final set of hearings around Baffin Island next week, the commission's director is encouraging Inuit to speak up about all kinds of federal government decisions.

As the Qikiqtani Truth Commission begins its final set of hearings around Baffin Island next week, the commission's director is encouraging Inuit to speak up about all kinds of federal government decisions that have affected their traditional way of life.

The truth commission began public hearings in January to explore allegations that the RCMP systematically killed thousands of Inuit sled dogs across the eastern Arctic from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The Nunavut-based commission panel will begin its final round of hearings Monday in Hall Beach. Igloolik, Qikiqtarjuaq, Clyde River and Pond Inlet will also be visited, before the commission returns to Kimmirut and Iqaluit for more hearings.

The commission started hearings on Jan. 22 and will have visited 13 communities by the time they end. No date has been set for the release of the commission's final report.

"A lot of times, the media or other persons think that this is just a dog-slaughter commission. It really isn't; it's a lot more than that," Madeleine Redfern, the commission's executive director, told CBC News.

"Our inquiry is to look at all government decisions from the period of 1950 to 1980 in the eastern Arctic that affected Inuit … from housing, health care [to] people who were sent down south for tuberculosis."

Redfern said the more information Inuit give the commission, the more accurate and complete its final report will be.

"We invite people to speak to all those issues, so that our final report will touch on all the types of decisions that government made and the effects and consequences on Inuit, so it does really portray a more fuller, accurate account of that historical period," she said.

Speaking in Inuktitut, Hall Beach deputy mayor Solomon Qanatsiaq told CBC News that he supports the truth commission because he feels governments have failed to recognize the culture and lives of Inuit.

Inuit have long alleged that the RCMP killed a total of about 20,000 sled dogs throughout the 1950s, '60s and '70s in Nunavut, the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, and the Nunatsiavut region of Labrador.

The RCMP, which has denied allegations of an organized dog slaughter, conducted its own investigation into the issue. A 2005 interim report cleared police of any wrongdoing.

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