Resolute monument honours High Arctic exiles

A newly unveiled monument in Resolute, Nunavut, pays tribute to Inuit who were forcibly relocated to the High Arctic by the federal government in the 1950s.
This monument by Resolute, Nunavut, carver Simeonie Amarualik, depicts a man looking out at the Arctic Ocean. A similar sculpture will be unveiled Friday in Grise Fiord. ((CBC))
A newly unveiled monument in Resolute, Nunavut, pays tribute to Inuit who were forcibly relocated to the High Arctic by the federal government in the 1950s.

Indian and Northern Affairs Minister John Duncan was among 50 people — including government officials, Inuit leaders and the relocatees themselves — who gathered amid strong and cold winds Wednesday for the ceremony in the remote community.

It took place less than a month after Duncan apologized to Inuit for the government's High Arctic relocation program, in which 87 Inuit were taken from Inukjuak, Que., to Canada's most northerly settlements in 1953 and 1956.

The stone monument by Simeonie Amarualik, who was relocated to Resolute, depicts a lone man looking out at the ocean. It was erected just a few metres from the spot where Amarualik's family and others had been dropped off by ship in the summer of 1953.

"To see this, it's like closure. It's like more of a healing, deep healing for me," said Louisa Sudluviniq Gillespie, who was two years old when she and her family were relocated to Resolute.

Sacrifices commemorated

Resolute is one of two communities where upward of 87 Inuit were transplanted in the 1950s. Grise Fiord is about 400 kilometres northeast of Resolute. ((CBC))
A similar monument will be unveiled Friday in Grise Fiord, where some of the families were transplanted.

The monuments were commissioned by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Inuit land-claims organization in Nunavut, to commemorate the sacrifices of the Inuit, commonly dubbed the High Arctic Exiles.

It is widely believed that the Inuit were relocated to Resolute and Grise Fiord in the government's bid to assert Canada's sovereignty over the Arctic.

The government at the time denied that claim, instead promising the Inuit better conditions and plenty of wildlife they can hunt. They were also promised they could return home after one or two years, if they were not happy in the High Arctic.

Promises unfulfilled

But neither promise was fulfilled, and the Inuit recall having endure harsh winter conditions, a lack of wildlife, and a lack of supplies and support from the government.

"I hope that you will accept this apology and that it will help form the basis of a strengtened and new relationship with the government of Canada," Duncan said during Wednesday's ceremony.

Sudluviniq Gillespie's brother, Allie Sudluviniq, said the relocation was a tough time for their parents.

"It's too bad they couldn't be here," he said. "I accept the apology and I have forgiven."

Fewer than 10 surviving exiles were on hand Wednesday to help unveil the monument, as most of the relocatees have since died.

Officials say a younger generation of Inuit in Resolute now have a permanent reminder of what their ancestors had to go through in the 1950s.