Nunavut panel to release sled dog slaughter report

An Inuit commission is getting ready to present its findings on claims by Nunavut Inuit that RCMP officers killed thousands of sled dogs from the 1950s to the 1980s.

An Inuit commission is getting ready to present its findings on claims by Nunavut Inuit that RCMP officers killed thousands of sled dogs from the 1950s to the 1980s.

The Qikiqtani Truth Commission, which has spent the last two years exploring allegations of an organized dog slaughter in Nunavut's Baffin region, is currently getting feedback on its findings and recommendations before they are released in May.

Led by retired judge James Igloliorte of Newfoundland and Labrador, the panel gathered testimony from people in 13 communities across the Baffin region in 2008 and 2009.

"We've heard from many people who say, 'I'm so glad that on behalf of my parents or my grandparents, I was able to tell this testimony,'" Igloliorte told CBC News on Wednesday.

"When someone speaks to you in that manner, and they're able to do that in public and to say it so that it's permanently recorded, [it] gives much more authority to the way they speak and the value of that as a piece of evidence."

Livelihoods changed

Inuit have long alleged that police killed a total of about 20,000 sled dogs from 1950 to 1980 in Nunavut, the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, and the Nunatsiavut region of Labrador.

The Inuit hold the husky, or qimmiit in the local language, in high regard, which has helped maintain a pure breeding line. The Inuit husky is the hardiest of dog breeds, needing no shelter even in the most extreme Arctic weather and eating only raw caribou, seal or walrus meat. ((Reuters))

As a result of losing their dogs, Inuit say their livelihoods were dramatically affected. Many have accused governments of forcing families to move from their traditional settlements into western-style communities.

"People were sincere in how they told about their stories and the impacts on them today, after so many years of having gone through this transition period, moving from beloved homes and families to the larger settlements," Igloliorte said. "It was a tough experience."

In its own report in 2006, the RCMP concluded no organized dog slaughter took place. Some dogs were lawfully destroyed because they were disease-ridden or dangerous, according to the police force.

Quebec report calls for apology

Last week, a Quebec inquiry led by retired judge Jean-Jacques Croteau concluded that the governments had turned a blind eye as provincial police killed more than 1,000 Inuit sled dogs in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec.

Croteau called on both levels of government to apologize and compensate Inuit for the dog deaths.

"They knew that the dogs were essential for the people to go hunting, to go fishing," Croteau told CBC News.

"They killed the dogs and they never offered help to people. That embarrassed me to learn that."

Croteau was commissioned by the Quebec government and Makivik Corp., the land-claim organization for Nunavik Inuit, to visit all of that region's 14 communities and gather testimony on the dog slaughter issue.

Makivik Corp. president Pita Aatami said Inuit in northern Quebec have waited a long time for confirmation of their claims.

The organization hopes to meet with both the federal and Quebec governments to discuss what comes next, Aatami said.

As for the Qikiqtani Truth Commission's report, Igloliorte said there will be many ways people can access the document once it's released. The report will also be made available in Inuktitut, he added.